What’s needed to help people in the final year of their life could be something non-medical, such as a ride to the hairdresser or someone to find them a hairdresser who will come into their home, said Dr. Denise Marshall, a specialist in palliative care who leads a hospice in Grimsby, Ont.
Taking care of the dying “is not this narrow slice” of time when a patient is bedridden in a hospice as they approach death, Marshall said in an interview before making an address at the community centre here Saturday.
It is also about helping them in the months right after diagnosis of a fatal disease in a “social” rather than medical way, she said.
That means service clubs and community volunteers need to step forward and help patients with “mind, body, and soul” issues, said Marshall.
They could become volunteer drivers to take elderly women to a hairdresser or serve in other roles, she said.
Studies have shown that if dying people are given a better quality of life they actually live “longer and better,” said Marshall.
“How can we as a community do surveillance (of the dying),” she said. “Who are they? What do they need? There’s a lot that isn’t healthcare.”
Marshall cited a survey where women in their 80s who had suffered heart failure were asked what they needed most. The reply, she noted, was: “I can’t get my hair done.”
“You’ve had your hair done for 50 years. Now you can’t. It’s another loss for you.”
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