At-home help for end-of-life care
Supporting Island families -
For Jeremy Measham, the Paramedics Providing Palliative Care at Home Program is an opportunity to help people through some of the hardest periods of their lives.
The program, launched by Health PEI in 2015, involves paramedics providing ongoing care - often during overnight hours - to palliative patients who live and want to remain in their own home. The program, a partnership between Island EMS and the provincial Home Care and Integrated Palliative Care programs, was recently recognized by the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement for its innovation in delivering end-of-life care.
Measham, a 12-year-veteran of paramedicine on the Island, said he has been glad to see a program develop where paramedics assist people in staying home, rather than taking them to hospital.
“We have felt badly in the past that we weren’t able to provide treatment for people in their homes,” he said. “The old model was that we would stabilize and transport them to hospital. Quite often this is something that the patients didn’t want.”
The new program allows people who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness but who wish to remain at home to register for the Paramedics Providing Palliative Care at Home Program and to get medical assistance as required without being removed for hospital treatment. The paramedics have the ability, and the background information on each registered patient, to address immediate medical needs, and to arrange for follow-up by Health PEI’s home care and palliative care experts.
“Pain management would probably be our most frequent call. We also have lots of calls for shortness of breath. We help alleviate some of those symptoms. We do it with pharmacology or we can make environmental changes. It could be as simple as turning a fan on in a room or removing something that is an irritant,” Measham says.
It’s a far cry from the adrenaline-filled response that paramedics are expected to provide when called to the scene of a traffic accident.
“We’re almost wearing a different hat when we respond to this kind of call,” he says. “It wouldn’t be unheard of for us to sit down and have a cup of tea with the family after we have helped the patient - it’s a very different kind of call.”
Measham said the Island’s 160 paramedics have found that palliative care patients appreciate the care they provide and the chance to remain at home in their final months and weeks.
“It’s comforting to know that if they need a little help, they can pick up a phone and we can be right there.”