The staff of Stockholms Sjukhem Palliative Care Centre in Sweden celebrated this year’s World Hospice and Palliative Care Day by inviting the public to an information event. One of the event organisers, Sylvia Sauter, explains
We said we’d come early to be there in time to welcome the audience and to prepare for coffee and technicalities. An hour would be more than sufficient – we thought. We, the organisers, were all on time on this beautiful and sunny autumn day when ‘A day for palliative care’ was to take place in Stockholms Sjukhem, a palliative care centre in Stockholm, Sweden. But some of the audience were already there – more than punctual! The audience, mostly older ladies but with some younger people and men too, were waiting eagerly to hear about palliative care in general and about the care at Stockholms Sjukhem.
As a bonus, they received information about Hospice Ethiopia from Dr Barbro Norrström, chair of a non-governmental organisation in Stockholm that supports the work of Ethiopia’s first hospice. Pia Hakola, a nurse, showed photos and told us about her experiences in Addis Ababa where she had spent several weeks with the hospice home care nurses. Hospice Ethiopia is the country’s only full-service hospice and palliative care organisation, and also has an important role in providing nurse education. We learnt about the challenges of palliative care in a low-income country and the reasons why so many patients present when their illness is already far advanced: lack of knowledge about treatment possibilities, low literacy, most people living in remote areas of the country with no access to health care staff, no social security and fear of a cancer diagnosis.
Dr Mats Linderholm, head of the Palliative Care Centre at Stockholms Sjukhem, made it quite clear that there is still a lot to do about inequalities in the world of palliative care. Even though access to morphine has increased globally we are far from where we want to be, to give adequate care to all those who are in need. The inequality is less, but still obvious, even in Sweden. We need to do so much more to increase professional and public awareness of palliative care. If the general public doesn’t know what palliative care is then how can they ask (or in Sweden insist) to have palliative care for their loved ones!
Then we heard about existential issues from Annica Charoub, a nurse, who explained that palliative care was not just about the physical aspects of pain relief but that other needs such as social and psychological pain need to be addressed too.
Singing, both African and Swedish songs by a school choir, was also part of this rather broad programme and was much appreciated. And of course we had a coffee break – this was free but we hoped that instead people would make a donation to Hospice Ethiopia. At the end of the programme people had the opportunity to ask questions and have a private word with staff from the palliative care unit.
As we closed the event we were already thinking about the focus for next year’s World Hospice and Palliative Care Day and how we could reach out to the public even more.
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