Help­ing pa­tients live well, live longer

Marlborough Midweek - - FRONT PAGE - PAULA HULBURT

As a pal­lia­tive care spe­cial­ist based at Hospice Marl­bor­ough, Dr Beth Morgan ded­i­cates her life to help­ing oth­ers.

Ev­ery day she spends with the chron­i­cally ill and those at the end of their life is, she says, is a ‘‘a priv­i­lege.’’

And she hopes to change the way such cases are man­aged by see­ing pa­tients be­fore they be­come too sick.

Hospice Aware­ness Week be­gins on Mon­day and runs un­til May 20.

For Morgan, it is an ideal op­por­tu­nity to recog­nise the work done by doc­tors, nurses and other sup­port staff who help make changes for the bet­ter. ‘‘Peo­ple tend to think [the hospice] is just a way to help peo­ple have a good death but it’s so much more.

‘‘For me, pal­lia­tive care is about look­ing at the whole per­son and their to­tal suf­fer­ing. It’s about look­ing at what is caus­ing their suf­fer­ing be­yond just phys­i­cal symp­toms. I like to talk less and lis­ten more. I’m pas­sion­ate about help­ing peo­ple un­der­stand what their ill­ness is so that they can make in­formed decisions.

‘‘I would like to see more peo­ple utilise a pal­lia­tive care ap­proach and for our team to get re­fer­rals much ear­lier than when a per­son is in cri­sis,’’ she says.

Morgan and her part­ner ar­rived in Marl­bor­ough a year ago from New Mex­ico. She first came to New Zealand in 2004 and made plans to re­turn to live in 2020. But when the job came up, she says she did not hes­i­tate.

Af­ter prac­tic­ing as a fam­ily medicine doc­tor for five years, she went back to do a fel­low­ship in geri­atrics and then ad­di­tional train­ing in pal­lia­tive care and hospice.

For a decade she did house calls to home bound pa­tients - and still does.

‘‘See­ing peo­ple in their own homes help me un­der­stand so much more.

‘‘Not all pal­lia­tive care is hospice care and there is a ten­dency for any­one who hears the word ‘‘hospice’’ to think okay, that’s it, they’re giv­ing up on me.

‘‘That’s not the case at all; it’s about help­ing peo­ple live well and some­times this also helps them to live longer,’’ she says.

A pas­sion­ate ad­vo­cate for let­ting pa­tients make their own decisions, Morgan says some need help ‘‘nav­i­gat­ing their dis­ease and symp­toms to meet their goals.’’

With be­tween 80 to 120 peo­ple on her list in the com­mu­nity, Morgan, who also con­sults at Waitau Hospi­tal, would like to see her ser­vices and those of her col­leagues of­fered much ear­lier.

‘‘Peo­ple can self re­fer to hospice and we’ll de­ter­mine whether or not that pa­tient meets the cri­te­ria; some may just need our help along­side their GP for a short time be­cause they im­prove or sta­bilise.

‘‘The hospice tends to be for pa­tients with more com­plex needs but see­ing peo­ple ear­lier helps us to bet­ter un­der­stand what is im­por­tant to them and their fam­i­lies as well as for us to help them to pre­pare for what may hap­pen as the dis­ease pro­gresses.

‘‘I learn some­thing from my pa­tients almost ev­ery week,’’ she says.

The keen cy­clist says the chal­lenges of work­ing with peo­ple strug­gling with life­lim­it­ing ill­nesses ‘‘never gets any eas­ier.’’ Get­ting out on her bike helps her to re­lax.

‘‘We all, at times, get at­tached to some pa­tients and their fam­i­lies and it can be hard; es­pe­cially when younger peo­ple die.

‘‘But if it wasn’t hard, then I’m prob­a­bly not in the right pro­fes­sion.’’

Hospice fundrais­ing raf­fle tick­ets will go on sale next Mon­day, Tues­day, Wed­nes­day, Thurs­day and Satur­day in the foyer at Blen­heim New World and at Spring­lands Z sta­tion on Fri­day.

Vol­un­teers are also needed at both the hospice and hospice shop in Red­wood­town.

Con­tact the hospice vol­un­teer co-or­di­na­tor on 03 578 9492 for fur­ther in­for­ma­tion.

PHOTO: PAULA HULBURT/STUFF

Pal­lia­tive care spe­cial­ist Dr Beth Morgan at Hospice Marl­bor­ough would like to see pa­tients re­ferred for help much ear­lier.

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