A lot of importance is placed on the first thousand days of life and that is rightly so. The first three years of life are the formative years and can make all the difference in someone’s life. Some of the crucial attachments are formed and if things do not go well, there may be major setbacks which affect the rest of life in many ways.
What about the last thousand days of life? How a person lives in their final days needs to be considered. All of us who are born and live will one day die. Exactly when we do not know. People with life-limiting illnesses will live for much shorter periods than most people of similar ages. Illness has a detrimental effect on a person. Their physiological age no longer matches their chronological age. People with life-limiting illnesses can be thought of as frailer. Their organs are under strain from illness and may not function so well. They need the input of the whole multi-disciplinary team. Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy input may become essential components in maintaining functional ability and independence.
The New Zealand Health Strategy was published in 2016 and it aspired for all New Zealanders to live well, stay well, and get well. No mention was made of dying well, despite all New Zealanders dying at some stage. Also in 2016 was published the Healthy Ageing Strategy aimed to have, “Older people live well, age well and have a respectful end of life in age-friendly communities.” This was followed in 2017 by the Palliative Care (In)Action Plan, which talked about planning a lot of planning but not much action.
Hey, let’s form some committees to plan for planning to take action. That will only take ten years or so, by that time a miracle would’ve happened and death would’ve been cured. Not quite, but the biggest health sector reforms in a generation started taking place on 1 July 2022, revealing a mystery to be solved. What will happen to us all? What opportunities for long-term palliative care partnerships may become available? What opportunities can we make for ourselves to ensure that palliative care/hospice remains relevant now and into the future? How can we shape the last thousand days of New Zealanders’ lives? Time to be creative and innovative. Time for some alchemy, time to transform talk into action. What do we want palliative care/hospice to be like in five years? Ten years? 25 years?
Hey, wait a minute, we haven’t sorted out the five-year survival of the New Zealand hospice sector yet. Maybe that needs to be the top priority.