WWU Launches New Palliative Care Institute; Conference Set for May 13-14

Western Washington University’s new Palliative Care Institute, a partnership of Whatcom Alliance for Health Advancement (WAHA), Community Organized Group for Health (COGH), Whatcom Family & Community Network, PeaceHealth Palliative Care, and PeaceHealth Hospice, is a focused effort to transform local palliative care and support the human responses to living and dying.

“There is no cure for life,” said Marie Eaton, director of the institute. “Eventually it ends for all of us. What the institute is all about is helping people understand that as the end comes, regardless of the situation or the illness involved, you don’t have to be cured to be healed.”

Palliative care is specialized health care for patients, of any age, with serious illnesses; it focuses on managing difficult symptoms and also creates the space for an open discussion on treatment choices and care planning. The goal of the institute is to improve the quality of life for patients and their families.

“We live in this culture of fighting until the very end. But we need to know that as a patient, you have every right at some point to tell your doctor that you want to move from fighting to being comfortable,” said Eaton.

Eaton said one of the most important goals of the institute is to try to assist normalizing conversations about death and dying.

“It’s not a cheery topic, we realize that,” she said. “But it’s an important one. We need to normalize the discussions about serious illnesses and end of life so there isn’t a stigma attached to the subject.”

As part of this outreach effort, the institute will host its first Palliative Care Institute Conference on May 13-14, co-sponsored by Bellingham at Orchard, the Chuckanut Health Foundation, the Elder Law Offices of Barry Meyers, PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center’s Whatcom Hospice and Palliative and Supportive Care program, the RiverStyx Foundation, Sanitary Service Corp. and Western’s Woodring College of Education. Topics at the conference, which will be held at the Sheraton Four Points on May 13 and at Western’s Fairhaven College for Interdisciplinary Studies on May 14, will include the role of integrated therapies in end of life care, and self-care for providers.

For more information about the institute, the conference or to register, go to https://wce.wwu.edu/bsn/palliative-care-institute or contact Marie Eaton at marie.eaton@wwu.edu.