Not Cap’n Crunch cereal but he ate them like lollies, 5 tablets at a time crunched in his mouth like candies. It was strangely fascinating to watch him do it.
Were they really helping him? We didn’t really know, but that’s what his Cardiologist had recommended at their last appointment, and as a model patient he would follow the instructions carefully.
It hadn’t always been like this, two years before life in his small town was normal. Not much to do in the weekends, so like everybody else his age he dabbled in recreational drugs.
Weeks later and his breathing became worse, he thought it was due to a reactivation of his childhood asthma. He didn’t do anything about it but then things worsened and he went to see his doctor. He was prescribed Asthma inhalers but they were ineffective. Back and forth to the doctor he went, with no improvement. A chest x-ray was ordered and surprisingly showed severe heart failure. Further investigations were performed including an echocardiogram. Working diagnosis was of severe cardiomyopathy secondary to methamphetamine abuse. The drugs he used had left his heart permanently damaged.
Merryn Gott (@MerrynGott) spoke about the ‘last taboo’ in our community: the invisible and sometimes unexpected costs of providing care at the end of life, which are often not explored in clinical and almost never measured in policymaking and research. She also discussed the impact of culture, ethnicity and gender on who is bearing these financial and non-financial costs. To find our more, read her open access @PalliativeMedJ article here.
Meera Agar (@meera_agar) discussed the growing evidence base around delirium care in the palliative care setting. Management of this complex, distressing, life-threatening, but often reversible syndrome is challenging. Non-pharmacological strategies and a system-wide approach to organizing and delivering care are crucial, as research into various drug treatments continue to demonstrate a lack of clear benefit and the potential for harm. Meera recommends iDelirium for more information about this important area of palliative care.
Pippa Hawley reflected on the lack of evidence around the use of medicinal cannabis – despite the immense interest from (and considerable experience of) our communities. How should clinicians respond while the scientific and legal issues are sorted out? Ask questions, keep an open mind & work with our patients!
Douglas McGregor explored the interface between heart failure and palliative care. He referenced Sarah Goodlin’s open access article, Merryn Gott’s study while discussing prognostic uncertainty and clinician paralysis; and observed that most guidelines still see palliative care as relevant only at the very end of life, rather than a key component of chronic disease management. Amy Gadaud’s (@agadoud) review was flagged as a good place to start when considering issues around early integration.
Sam Bloore stimulated and inspired delegates with his fascinating talk about dying well in a culture of bitcoin and botox. How can palliative care adapt, survive and thrive in this changing cultural landscape characterized by information overload, mindless distraction and incoherence? We must remain a “subversive” counterculture and continue to strive towards caring deeply and meaningfully!
In addition to these amazing plenaries, fully (and at times even over-)subscribed workshops on the overlap between palliative care and addiction medicine / chronic pain, aged care, literature and the arts were held, alongside numerous excellent oral and poster presentations from specialists and trainees. The enthusiastic and well-informed audience present during all of the sessions was another highlight for me (and I’m sure all of the other speakers and delegates)!
It’s been a wonderful few days in Perth. A big thank you to the Conference organizing committee, chaired by Derek Eng (@dr_engd), for inviting team @Palliverse to be part of this great event. Thanks also to all of you for engaging with #ANZSPM16 on social media. Keep an eye out for our upcoming tweet chats, during which we will continue the conversation about the changing landscape of palliative care!