Dr. Eduardo Bruera lives in Texas, and he says almost everyone there greatly prizes their vehicles.
"When you buy a car, you have the best possible expectations for it. But when you go to the supermarket, you lock it," said Bruera.
"When you drive it, you wear your seatbelt. You buy car insurance because bad things can happen, even when your expectations are great."
Even the most optimistic person will do those things. Not locking the doors, not wearing a seatbelt and not buying vehicle insurance would be deemed too risky.
"The same thinking applies when we get cancer or heart failure. We want the best care, and we don't want to die. Having the best expectations, all we want is for our disease to go away – but bad things can happen," said Bruera.
"Palliative care is what allows you to have your seatbelt, your insurance and your locked doors. Those things will keep you safe if things do not go the way you expect."
Bruera was the keynote speaker at Covenant Health's annual community meeting, Oct. 17 at the West Edmonton Mall Fantasyland Hotel ballroom. He spoke on compassionate care at the end of the life.
"When you are ill, when you cannot take of yourself, when you are suffering . . . that's what palliative care is for," he said.
Bruera earlier served at Edmonton's University of Alberta Hospital where he directed the clinical and academic palliative care programs until 1999.
Palliative care has come a long way since then, he said. Music is played in palliative care facilities. They host Friday evening teas for patients and their families. In some facilities, pets can visit the residents.
Instead of individuals working in isolation, for a dying patient, there must be a seamless flow between the family doctor, patient, family, specialists, and palliative care team.
In its annual report to the community, Covenant Health reflected on its milestones and achievements of the past year.
With the theme Honouring the Journey, the meeting looked back to Covenant Health's roots, shaped by their founding congregations of sisters, who served as far back as 1863.
Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski thanked Covenant Health for building Villa Marie, a new 100-bed continuing care facility in Red Deer, scheduled to open in 2014.
As well, Holy Cross Manor and St. Marguerite Manor will add 229 continuing care beds in northwest Calgary.
"This innovative continuing care model will provide a full range of care in one setting so seniors can stay in one location even as their needs change," said Jablonski.
Covenant Health shared some of its significant contributions to the health care system and to the health of Albertans this year.
It is Canada's largest health care provider, serving 12 communities across the province. One in six Alberta babies is born at a Covenant Health facility. Their teams handle almost one in 10 visits to emergency departments in Alberta.
Covenant Health maintained a balanced budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year. Its revenue exceeded its expenditures by $1.2 million. Excess revenues were invested in advancing seniors' health and wellness.