Defining the essence of palliative care for older people: religions together

Categories: Leadership.

The meeting, funded by the Maruzza Foundation, was held under the auspices of the Vatican Pontifical Academy for Life.

The title of the meeting was: ‘Defining the Essence of Palliative Care for Older People: Religions Together’, and aimed to draft a charter on palliative care for older persons.

Representatives from major international palliative care organisations attended the meeting, including the WHPCA, the IAHPC, the APHN, the EAPC, the APCA, Cicely Saunders Institute, the PPSG, Human Rights Watch, and many others.

Representatives from the major faiths including Anglican, Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish attended along with Humanists.

The Charter recognizes that: “each older person has full value and human rights, and contributes to society including when fragile and in need of care”, and sets out various factors particular to older people that may make them less likely to access good care. These include: social deprivation, isolation, poverty, and an exclusion from the decision making process regarding their own care, among others.

The authors of the document state that: “We believe that everyone involved in the care of these persons, as well as governments, policy makers and spiritual and religious leaders, should engage with and advance the awareness, development, promotion, improvement and dissemination of Palliative Care for older persons in order that these persons and their families in all parts of the world have access to Palliative Care.”

The attendees did considerable work in advance of this meeting to help define the topics to include in the Charter.

Participants divided into four groups to draft sections of the charter including: 1) Spiritual & Religious Perspectives; 2) Clinical Perspectives; 3) Human Rights Perspectives; and 4) Patients’ and Families’ Perspectives.

The leaders of the groups then met to come up with a full draft that was reviewed with all attendees and modified until consensus was reached. Following this, all the attendees signed the charter.

The Maruzza Foundation is also known for having sponsored the: ‘Religions of the World Charter for Children’s Palliative Care’ and is an advocate for palliative care around the world.

Both charters need others to sign and promote so that they can reach and be used to improve quality of life for children and older people with palliative care needs.

Dr Stephen R Connor, Executive Director of the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance, said: “Ageing may be the most significant demographic trend in today’s world. For the first time in human history the number of older persons (60+) is greater than those under five years. This Charter is the first of its kind to recognize and elucidate the particular needs of older people accessing palliative care.”

Ms Liliana De Lima, Executive Director of the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, added: “Palliative care for older persons is a component of the right to health and that governments should take the necessary steps to ensure access to adequate care to patients with palliative care needs, including access to essential medicines such as oral morphine.”

You can download the Charter from the Maruzza Foundation website.