The theme above is about a goal that concerns every one of us.
On the occasion of this World Hospice and Palliative Care Day (13 October 2012), this blog ‘Stop-NCDs Network’, joins the international fraternity in issuing a warning and drawing attention of all concerned to an urgent need.
The objective is not an ordinary one, but of a global dimension: necessity to respond to improved palliative care for the world’s ageing populations.
In this context, the global trend is alarming. Within the next five years, the number of adults aged 65 and over will outnumber children under the age of five. And the older people are at higher risk of multiple, chronic debilitating conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia and HIV/AIDS.
Many older people are at a higher risk of living in agony and pain, and die in pain and distress as they are unable to access the care they need, including the appropriate medications to address their suffering.
Given the estimates for NCDs by the World Health Organization (WHO) in near future, millions of adults will require palliative care at the end of life each year: 66% of these are over 60 years old. Older people at the end of life are missing out on vital care and support because of a lack of access to palliative care services in most parts of the world.
As compared to increasing need, 42% of countries still have no identified hospice and palliative care service, while 80% of people globally lack adequate access to medication for treatment of moderate to severe pain.
This means millions of older people, especially in the developing world, are living and dying in unnecessary pain and distress.
This World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, the Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance (WPCA) is warning that an urgent response is needed to improve palliative care for older people and meet the growing needs of the world’s ageing populations.
To ensure all older people with life-limiting conditions are cared for with dignity and according to their wishes, the WPCA is today calling for palliative care to be integrated into national and community health systems around the world.
Dr John Beard, Director of the Department of Ageing and Life Course at WHO, says “The main focus of health services is generally on preventing, curing or managing disease. But one of the things that is often neglected is providing quality care at the end of life.
Dr. Beard says, “Millions of people today die in needless suffering simply because they are denied access to appropriate pain relief and social support. This care is not expensive, and everyone has a right to it.”
There is often a misconception that palliative care is primarily for people with cancer. This is not true. The latest estimates from WHO show that older people with a range of conditions require palliative care and that in many disease groups those over 60s are the largest group in need.
Globally, those in need of palliative care are dying from Alzheimer, dementias, Parkinson disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, nephritis and nephrosis and cancer, predominantly affecting those in over 60s age group.
Older people must have access to appropriate care, support and treatment, which recognises their contribution to society and is tailored to their individual needs through the course of illness, including at the end of life. Unfortunately, palliative care is very rarely available.
To ensure all older people with life-limiting conditions are cared for with dignity and according to their wishes, ‘Stop-NCDs Network’ is today calling for palliative care to be integrated into national and community health systems around the world.
Through this blog, I therefore share and reiterate the common global concern, “While our ageing population is a cause of celebration, this also brings great challenges, not least in the delivery of health care. Despite progress in the development of hospice and palliative care, which has improved the quality of life for millions, it is far from adequately available for all those who need it.
“Shockingly 42% of countries do not have any identified hospice and palliative care services and 80% of people globally lack adequate access to medication for treatment of moderate to severe pain. This means millions of older people, especially in the developing world, are living and dying in unnecessary pain and distress.”
Therefore, it is called upon the national international agencies, our governments, the private sector and civil society to work for improvement of access to palliative care for older people with life-limiting conditions by integrating palliative care into existing services.
Sharon Baxter from the Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance and Executive Director of the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association has issued a special focus on reducing pain and suffering among neglected or marginalised groups that are unable to get the care that they require.
He says, “It is totally unacceptable that older people, wherever they are based, are unable to access the care that they need to live and die with dignity and respect. With the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases and the ageing of the HIV pandemic, it is even more pressing that urgent action is taken.”
For integration of palliative care within existing services, however, it is necessary that initiatives be taken on measures like:
· Training of greater number of health professionals and carers
· Making available improved access to pain medications
· Inclusion of palliative care in existing health policies
· Engagement of older people in decisions concerning their care
This World Hospice and Palliative Care Day 2012 assumes importance as thousands of people in around 60 countries are coming together at more than 1,000 events to celebrate, support and speak up about hospice and palliative care.