Supporting the carers – the Palliative Care Handbook

Caring for people during the final period of their lives, whether at home or in a hospice, has become a recognised medical specialty. After all, these are people with very different pain relief and support therapy needs, compared with other patients. For example, those with cancer-related pain can tolerate much higher doses of pain-relieving drugs. Their spiritual needs are different too, compared with those who have had say, a heart attack or trauma.

Recognising these needs, and those of the carers, Rod MacLeod and Jane Vella-Brincat first published their Handbook of Palliative Care two decades ago in Bath, England. These pioneers in the field of palliative care were joined by Sandy Macleod to create the New Zealand edition.

Produced as a pocket guide for clinical management and symptom control for anyone providing end-of-life care, it has been enthusiastically received by doctors, nurses and medical students alike – as well as the wider palliative care community. The simple bullet-point format of the symptom management section has proven especiallyuseful, as has the second section covering drug usage for end-of-life care.

Now in its sixth New Zealand edition, the Palliative Care Handbook has been distributed widely to health practitioners throughout New Zealand, and also in modified form in England and Tasmania. It covers all common aspects of symptom management including, for the first time, advice on the psychosocial and spiritual dimensions of care.

Publication of the 2004 and 2006 editions was supported by the Cancer Research Trust. Today, the authors are delighted that the book again has the support of the Trust, meaning the handbook can be distributed without charge by Hospice New Zealand. The handbook will also be available in eBook form and plans are being made for a mobile phone application.

The authors are indebted to the Cancer Research Trust and the Louisa and Patrick Emmett Murphy Foundation for making this handbook freely available. The authors are hopeful that the handbooks continued production gives confidence to those providing palliative care to people throughout New Zealand.

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