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