‘If you don’t get better’: New campaign sparks conversation about palliative care | News item

News item | 15-11-2022 | 08:00

The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) is launching a national public campaign on palliative care. That is help and care to keep the lives of people who do not get better and their loved ones as good as possible. The aim of the campaign is to get patients and their loved ones to actively think about care in the last phase of life.

Research by Palliative Care Netherlands (PZNL) shows that terminally ill people do not always receive appropriate palliative care, partly because they are not always aware of the options. That is why the campaign encourages these people to consider their wishes and limits in their final phase of life with their loved ones and caregivers. The campaign should also encourage healthcare providers to have a timely conversation about palliative care.

It is expected that more and more people will need palliative care in the future because the number of elderly people is increasing and we are living longer. In 2021, 170,000 people will die. Of these, more than 106,000 people went through a disease trajectory in which palliative care could have offered a solution.

People who do not get better can make use of palliative care in addition to regular care.

This can provide support for physical complaints (for example pain or shortness of breath), psychological complaints (for example gloom and fear), social problems (problems with the people around you and in processing changes) and questions of meaning (what do I still find important in life? to live?).

The goal is not to cure someone, but to prevent complaints and problems in order to maintain the quality of life as much as possible. Out research by PZNL shows that terminally ill people often do not make use of palliative care or do not make use of it in time. For example, because they do not know what it is, do not talk about it with their loved ones and healthcare provider and do not record their choices or only to a limited extent.

Awareness is crucial

Minister Helder for Long-Term Care and Sport emphasizes the importance of the new campaign: “People who receive good palliative care are often less gloomy and anxious, have to go to hospital less suddenly and experience a better quality of life in the last phase of their lives. That is why we want to use the campaign to help people who are no longer getting better and their encourage loved ones to look into the possibilities, preferably as soon as possible after receiving the diagnosis, because if palliative care is started in time, it can have a positive effect on the lives of people who do not get better and the people around them.”

National campaign

In the campaign, three people who are terminally ill tell how palliative care helps them. Online videos, advertisements and screens in GP waiting rooms are used for dissemination. There will also be flyers for general practitioners, pharmacies and hospitals. With the campaign, VWS meets a wish of the House of Representatives to make care in the last phase of life a subject of discussion. More information can be found at aboutpalliativecare.nl/quality. The campaign was developed in close collaboration with all kinds of parties involved, including Palliative Care Netherlands (PZNL). Following on from the campaign, attention will be drawn to this subject in the coming years through the National Program Palliative Care II, among other things.

Talking is very valuable

Michiel is one of the faces of the campaign. He has the incurable disease ALS and thinks the campaign is a good initiative. “After the first symptoms, people with ALS live an average of three to five years. I’m making the best of it. Palliative care helps with that. I especially benefit from mental help. I’ve been talking to a social worker and psychologist for a month now. Alone and with my family. Those conversations are emotional, but very valuable. They relieve and provide insight. What’s on your mind? What do we want to do with the family while we still can? How can we make the phase that I am still alive as pleasant as possible? What palliative care can help with this? The more we talk to each other about life and death, the more peace comes. That is good for everyone’s emotions and thoughts.”

Knowing more?

For more information, go to aboutpalliativecare.nl/quality