It was just over three years ago that my mom was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. The tumor that had started growing in her pancreas was now crushing it, and the cancer had metastasized (spread across her entire abdominal cavity). As a family, we were distraught… scared… and heartbroken. I cannot even imagine how my mom might have felt at that moment. Instead of tears or shock, however, she simply asked, “What happens to me now?”
When you or a loved one is diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, your care becomes “Palliative”. This is simply a specialized kind of medical care that allows your health care team to relieve the symptoms and stress caused by your life-limiting or serious illness. Palliative care, or End-of-Life Care, is provided by your doctors, nurses and other specially trained health care professionals. Building a strong support system is the best way to alleviate stress for everyone, most especially the patient.
I believe that palliative care is not just “caring for a patient who is seriously ill”. Palliative care involves a patient, their quality of life and their family. While it is important to relieve pain and symptoms, it is just as important to bring joy and hope to a loved one who is suffering or scared. Improving their quality of life also builds strength and promotes peace of mind. Effective palliative or end-of-life care is truly healing a heart, not just an illness.
In Barrie, where my mom and dad lived, there appeared to be a limited choice of palliative care support. My mom was referred to an amazing family doctor who came to our home to do regular check-ups. The Community Care Access Centre (CCAC – Barrie), now known as Local Health Integrated Networks (LHIN), also started making visits to help my mom with personal hygiene needs, and eventually pain management assistance. As helpful and supportive as all of these professionals were, we had to abide by their schedules, which wasn’t always convenient. Had my family known that there were wonderful companies like Coordinated Senior Services to help fill in the gaps of my mom’s care, we definitely would have invested in their support!
When she was diagnosed, my mom was given a prognosis of 3 months. Three months to make decisions, sort out her affairs… and to live. She began her palliative care in late January 2016… she quietly and peacefully passed away in the early morning hours of February 21st, 2017. With the help of her loved ones and her palliative care team, she surpassed her 3 month prognosis, surprised her medical care team and lived for 13 months – choosing to live joyfully every day, I might add.
I asked her once, during a late night conversation, how she could stay so strong despite everything she had been through. She looked surprised that I would ask, but without hesitation replied, “The reality is that I wouldn’t be here if you had not healed my heart first. You helped me accept that my life was not done with my diagnosis. I am strong and I’m still here… because you all gave me the strength to be here.”
If you live in the Barrie area, Coordinated Senior Services can help you tailor your senior palliative care or palliative care. All of our staff is empathetic to the needs of those in palliative, end-of-life or senior palliative care. We work to provide the care that best suits you and your loved one’s needs and schedule. We want to help you improve your loved one’s quality of life… let us help begin healing a heart.
Book: “The Needs of the Dying” by David Kessler
Book: “Final Gifts” by Maggie Callanan & Patricia Kelley