Palliative Care NSW Volunteer Support Services Programme
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Parkes palliative care conference reflects on care of the soul

Volunteers, clinicians, pastoral care staff and supporters of palliative care met in Parkes last Friday to talk about existential suffering and care.

‘Pain is more than Pills’ was hosted by the Parkes Palliative Care Volunteer Service through Parkes’ Neighbourhood Central. Attendees travelled from Orange, Dubbo and Sydney to hear speakers on total pain, spirituality and care of the spirit, caring for the ‘whole’, personal experiences of caring, end of life planning and the importance of connecting.

“The reason for today…palliative care is not only talk about symptoms, even though symptoms are important, it about the ethos and practice of caring. Existential distress is when an individual question even the very foundations of their life…it’s a feeling a person has that ‘all of me is wrong’”. Bernadette Orange CNS Parkes Palliative Care.

Palliative care is about the relief of suffering…one element of suffering will feed into other areas of suffering…a person isn’t just physical symptoms, so suffering in one area…like emotional, intellectual…can feed into other areas..such as physical, spiritual…”. Louis Christie, GP

“For anyone going through this…and this is the important message to remember…that you are not alone in the process…24/7…there is always someone there for you. Even at the hardest point when it is time…was better knowing we were not alone and were supported”. Carer, commenting on their experience of palliative care during the death of their son.

“They were only a phone call away and we had a number of calls to them ‘please come and help’ and they did. Mum was a straight shooter and I didn’t think she would let anyone into her life – but I was wrong. It turned out that Laurel (the nurse) shared an interest in music with her”. Kim, palliative care volunteer, talking about her experiences as a carer for her mother.

“I’ve observed that people at the end of their life can experience a lot of fear…sharing fears can take away a lot of the scariness”. Christina Carroll, GP.

“For me (people experiencing fear at end of life) is about the silence you see when you go places…the fear can really settle, and (as a volunteer in that situation) you have to go right there to get people talking about it”. Tony Fisher, palliative care volunteer.

In addition to an impressive line-up of speakers, the attendees also reflected on and shared about their practice of care. Thank you to Tony Fisher and Kaye Lindsay and the other organisers, as well as to Neighbourhood Central, for holding the event and for encouraging us all to reflect on our care.

Pic: Bernadette Orange at the Parkes conference.

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