Peace in palliative care
MARGERY Grant was an avid gardener, a loving mother to three grown boys and devoted wife of 39 years to husband Doug. Last May, she passed away from cancer at home, surrounded by her boys and the garden she loved.
It was the palliative care team from Bellarine Community Health (BCH), in conjunction with the BCH Community Nursing team, that allowed Margery, 69, affectionately known as Marge, to die in her Queenscliff home, instead of the confines of a hospital or palliative care unit.
The BCH specialist palliative care team provide palliative care to individuals affected by a life-limiting illness and the client’s family, at present caring for about 70 palliative care clients.
In 2019, BCH supported more than 80 per cent of palliative care clients to die in their preferred place, with 44 per cent of these clients choosing to die at home, the industry average is 14 per cent.
Nurse practitioner Sue Berry joined the BCH team last July, made up of palliative care consultant Dr David Brumley, and specialist palliative care nurses Jacob Miller and Teresa Prior.
“We often get confused with Barwon Health, but we are a stand-alone not-for-profit, community-based service. People don’t like the word palliative care, they associate it with death, but palliative care isn’t just end of life care. It’s looking after people with a life limiting illness and improving the quality of life by controlling symptoms.
“Good symptom management includes psychological support – it’s not just physical, it’s emotional support too.”
Ms Berry said palliative care at an individual’s home, allows a patient to follow their own routine not the hospitals, surrounded by loved ones, including family pets.
“They’re at home, with things that are important to them. I always say to my students and young nurses palliative care is a privilege. You’re not in a hospital, they’re not in your jurisdiction, you’re in somebody’s home and they’ll have input into decision-making.”
For Doug, he said Marge was a devout Christian, like him, and it was their faith, combined with the help of their boys and the BCH team, that meant Marge could receive her end of life care at home.
“You have to have the confidence you can be the carer – you are for 23 hours of the day that the nurses aren’t there. I had three sons with me, but even if I was on my own, I would’ve done it.
“At the same time, it was still Marge laying in a hospital bed, but it was much nicer and more intimate. For the most part, when the nurses weren’t there, it was just us as a family.
“We set up the television to play slideshows of previous family holidays, we sat her by the window so she could see the garden she was so proud of and played her favourite music. She was very grateful for those final three weeks at home.”
Mr Berry said the number of people using the service continues to increase, as more people become aware of their unique service.
For more information, head to bch.org.au.