News: Better care for dying

Published in the May 20 2010 issue of The Edmonton Sun. News

Better car for dying

Christine McCourt was halfway through her second pregnancy when her husband Jon was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer.

McCourt was told that there was no cure for her husband’s esophageal cancer and only palliative care could be offered.

This is not uncommon, as more than 76,000 Canadians are expected to die from cancer-related illnesses this year, with over 6,000 of those deaths occurring in Alberta alone, according to a new report released Wednesday by the Canadian Cancer Society.

The report stresses that end-of-life care for terminally ill patients in Canada, like McCourt’s husband, needs to be improved.

“When they get to that end-of-life kind of stage, they should be able to die with dignity … we need to do something to make that happen, rather than people having to die in a hospital setting,” McCourt said Wednesday at her west-end home.

The Canadian Cancer Society stats indicate in an aging population, more Canadians will need palliative care in the coming years and the quality of palliative care services are inadequate, varying within and between provinces.

This includes services for ill Canadians, as well as their caregivers, who in 2009 spent an estimated $25 billion of their own money to care for their sick loved ones.

“That’s huge and that’s unfortunate that’s what they have to do to make sure their family members are dying with dignity,” said Angeline Webb, spokeswoman for the Canadian Cancer Society.

“We have a large baby-boomer population that is aging, so that population will increase the cancer rates and we need to make sure that they are taken care of.”

According to the report, most terminally ill people want to die at home, but more than 55% of deaths occur in hospitals because palliative care services aren’t adequate enough to support in-home service.

The report also states that palliative care services in Canada are often unused or patients and their families are sometimes unaware the services are even available.

“We need to have systems in place where people can go to get answers and have those programs and services that will just make their cancer journeys a little bit easier,” McCourt said.

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