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The importance of palliative care

The University of Hull is pioneering work in the field of palliative care which aims to help terminally-ill patients live as well as they can and - when the time comes - die with courage and dignity.

The good news is that we are living longer. The bad news is that many more of us will live long enough to  die from complicated health conditions – which often need care over many months or even years.

It’s predicted an extra  100,000 people will die each year by 2040. So the stark reality is that most of us will either provide care or need it, in the approach to death. And most of us will look to our nearest and dearest – our family – to give us that support.

The University of Hull is pioneering work in the field of palliative care which aims to help terminally-ill patients live as well as they can and - when the time comes - die with courage and dignity.

Researchers at the University’s Wolfson Palliative Care Research Centre included questions in the Household Survey for England about  caring at the end of life.

The findings show that one in four people had had someone close to them die in the previous five years. Of these, one in three had provided personal care.

It’s predicted an extra 100,000 people will die each year by 2040.

Family carers do not by and large volunteer, nor are they trained. They just find themselves with someone who needs care and they step up to the mark. Few get the support needed – at the time, or afterwards.

It’s clear though from this study, that caring for someone close to you can take its toll – one in ten carers said they would not provide such care again under the same circumstances.

It is highly likely that many of us will be called upon to support a family member or friend at the end of their lives – perhaps more than once. Society can’t afford for this experience to be so bad that family carers wouldn’t want to do it again.

Research has shown that palliative care support can be the difference between  coping and not coping.

This article is based on one, written by Miriam Johnson, Professor of Palliative Medicine at the University of Hull, and David Currow, Professor of Palliative Medicine at the University of Technology Sydney, which first appeared in The Conversation.

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