Palliative patients in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island will soon be able to get more support from paramedics for pain and symptom management, at home.
“Many people don’t want to spend any part of their remaining months in hospital, they want to stay home, with their loved ones, in a setting that gives them comfort,” said Dr. Alix Carter, medical director of research for Emergency Health Services and EMS division director of Dalhousie Department of Emergency Medicine.
“But when they are experiencing unmanageable pain or other symptoms, and their regular care team is unavailable, they may end up calling 9-1-1 and being transported to hospital. With this project, paramedics will have new tools and skills which will allow them to provide palliative support that matches with the person’s wishes, including the possibility of managing symptoms at home.”
This care will be offered to patients starting in early May.
Before this project, 9-1-1 calls for palliative care patients required paramedics to transport them to hospital.
All 1,400 ground-ambulance paramedics in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are receiving training to increase their skills and resources to manage palliative care symptoms — such as pain, breathlessness, fear and anxiety.
In Nova Scotia, registering in EHS Nova Scotia’s special patient program will make it simpler for paramedics to provide care that is consistent with patients’ wishes.
Karen MacDonald, who cared for her husband at home for seven months before he passed away, says this program will help families feel comfortable as they follow their loved ones’ wishes to keep them at home.
“You’re always questioning, wondering ‘am I doing everything right?’ You feel guilty. It’s unknown territory for someone with no health-care training,” Ms. MacDonald said.
“This will allow a lot more people to consider bringing their loved ones home. It will give them someone to guide them.”
Project partners are the Department of Health and Wellness, Cancer Care Nova Scotia and Emergency Health Services, Dalhousie University’s department of emergency medicine, Health P.E.I. and Island EMS. The project has financial support from the Canadian Partnership against Cancer and Health Canada.
More information is available at novascotia.ca/dhw/ehs