Palliative care a real comfort says Tathra widow

Tathra’s Wendy Elliott is one of many South Coast locals with first-hand experience of palliative care. Her husband Lewis died in August 2008 after a 20-month battle with aggressive prostate cancer.

Wendy said Lewis’s palliative care nurse was a wonderful help, not just in improving his quality of life, but in offering advice and support for her as a carer.

“Lewis had a real phobia about hospitals and his strong wish was to stay at home,” she said.

“Because of a palliative care nurse, he was able to.”

Wendy said she didn’t even know what palliative care was at first and thought it was just another nursing service. 

But it wasn’t. They are there to treat pain and improve quality of life – not only for the patient but also their family.”

“It was only when the specialist said we didn’t need another appointment that it really clicked home.” - Wendy Elliott

Wendy is among those applauding the state government’s announcement of a $100million boost to palliative care services to be included in Tuesday’s budget.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the package includes 30 additional nurses and funding for six palliative care specialists for rural and regional areas – the locations yet to be determined.

The region’s nurses and allied health staff will also be able to apply for 300 scholarships to enhance palliative care skills, and other training opportunities.

Wendy said additional training for nurses would prove invaluable and that “they should have a look at what Canberra is doing [in palliative care].

Wendy said the grieving process began well before Lewis’s death but said palliative care nurses know what support is available and can steer you in the right direction.

It the weeks leading up to his death, there was even a hospital bed made available to Lewis at home.

Wendy said that even after Lewis’s death, their nurse dropped by to see if she could help with preparing his body as well as to organise a death certificate as their regular GP was on leave.

“It’s such a positive experience for the person who’s dying and also a help for the carer to make things ‘normal’ as much as possible,” she said.

“It was important for me and for Lewis that he was in his own environment, with the same nurse each time.

“I also found it helpful that they didn’t dodge the issue of death. 

“We don’t talk about death – it’s quite hidden. Doctors don’t talk about it, our church and priests don’t – neither did Lewis.”

Cancer Council community engagement coordinator for the Far South Coast Kate Brett said the organisation was excited to see the funding commitment from the NSW government.

“It is a great start to addressing the needs of NSW with regards to palliative care,” Ms Brett said.

”The package also includes a range of initiatives beyond specialist care that will make a difference for people and this funding commitment of $100million is significant.”

Ms Brett said the Cancer Council’s statewide I Care for Palliative Care campaign has had “incredible results”

“Over the last few months there has rarely been a day when the issue of palliative care, and our campaign in particular, has not been in a local paper somewhere across the state,” she said.

“Together we have had 61 of the 93 state MPs pledge their support, we’ve run 17 local campaign events across the state, gathered campaign endorsements from 120 organisations, and mobilised over 13,000 community members to take the palliative care pledge.

“This announcement shows that the government has heard the community and have taken action as a result.

“A huge thanks to everyone in the Bega Valley who has been involved in the I care for Palliative Care campaign.”

New data released last month revealed that there were 65,000 palliative care related hospitalisations in 2014-15, a 19 per cent increase from 2010-11.

The figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare also showed that, before their death, a greater proportion of people were accessing palliative care services in hospital.

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