Deconstructing the myths of palliative care

Ste. Genevieve United Church welcomes discussion

By Jim Morrison

Reverend Ian Smith hosted a discussion on the quality of end-of-life care at The Ste. Genevieve United Church last Thursday evening.

Keynote speakers, Teresa Dellar, the executive director, and co-founder, of The West Island Palliative Care Residence (WIPCR), with Rose DeAngelis, nursing director, deconstructed the five myths of palliative care.

The first myth is that death should not be talked about with family. It won’t happen if the topic is ignored. The example of this thought process is tuberculosis (TB) which was the cancer of Canada in the early 1900’s. TB is a serious disease that usually attacks the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, kidneys, urinary tract, and bones. TB was the primary killer in the country with one in 13 deaths, which was a step worse than cancer at the time. TB was not ignored and organized efforts controlled the disease with the use of antibodies in the 1940’s.

The second myth is that palliative care is depressing and morbid for patients, families, and staff. The palliative care residence provides comfortable surroundings and support services for families to manage a difficult time with the peace of mind of knowing family members are as comfortable as possible. Eight weddings and a 50th wedding anniversary have taken place at WIPCR. The youngest patient was 18, and the oldest was 102.

“My fondest memory is when one patient asked to have a party shortly before she died, because she wanted to know what people would say about her,” said Dellar.

The third myth is that palliative care is the same as assisted suicide and euthanasia, so it should not be promoted. Palliative care focuses on life, with patients living the final chapter of their lives in the best and most fulfilling manner possible by means of comfort and dignity.

The fourth myth is spending money on palliative care services is a waste of scarce government healthcare resources. The Quebec government pays $68,000 per bed for palliative care. Twenty percent of the West Island population is aged 65 and older. WIPCR has taken care of more than 2,500 patients and 10,000 family members since its inception in 2002.

The fifth myth is palliative care is totally paid for by the government health system. WIPCR has an annual operating budget of $4.8 million. One third is financed by the Quebec government and the balance of $3 million is raised through different campaigns and events; direct mail campaigns, gifts in memory, internal and external events, archangel program, and planned giving.

WIPCR opened in 2002 with nine beds. Expansion to 23 beds occurred in 2012, making it the largest freestanding palliative care residence in Canada. Currently, there are over 250 volunteers who provide thousands of hours of help in all aspects of the operation of the residence.

Further information about WIPCR and the subject matter can be viewed at or by calling [514] 693-1718.
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