Concord centre delivers compassionate palliative care for patients
Time is precious for Jason Fahey and his family.
“Mum was diagnosed with cancer about 18 months ago. It’s been a long journey and she’s reaching the end of her life. Our family is spending precious time with her,” he said.
Norma Fahey, 61, has lived at her home in Oatlands for the past 30 years.
She is now being cared for by a specialist team at the Concord Centre for Palliative Care at Concord Hospital.
The purpose-built 20-bed inpatient centre offers multidisciplinary care addressing physical, emotional and spiritual support, for patients with a life-limiting illness, their family and friends.
The primary goal is to improve a patient’s quality of life.
This week is Palliative Care Week. The theme for 2020 is Palliative Care – it’s more than you think.
“The Centre has opened my eyes and mind to palliative care. Everyone here – from the doctors and nurses to those who deliver meals and clean the rooms – have shown such care and compassion for my mum,” Jason, one of Norma’s three sons, said.
The Centre’s team includes doctors, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, bereavement counsellors and volunteers. They work closely with oncologists, surgeons, psychiatrists, pharmacists and chaplains.
“We have been involved in discussions and decision-making about Mum’s care – guided by the doctors and nurses. It’s made me feel at ease,” Jason said.
Conversations between clinicians, patients and families are crucial, and form part of an Advanced Care Plan. The plan outlines palliative care patients’ wishes for their end of life health care, should they become too unwell to make their own decisions.
“Many people in our community fear death and dying. As a society, we really do shun that conversation,” Associate Professor Ghauri Aggarwal, the head of the Palliative Care Department at Concord Hospital, said.
“But, we know that one of the most important aspects of an Advanced Care Plan are the conversations that we have with our patients and their family.
“It’s getting to know their core values, their goals, and priorities. Where do they want their care? What are their fears? What do they see as their future? That’s what an Advanced Care Plan is all about.
“It’s really important with all our patients, but particularly where we suspect COVID-19 or in COVID-19 positive cases, that an Advanced Care Plan is done,” she said.
Associate Professor Aggarwal and her team has led the District’s Palliative Care response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While there hasn’t been a palliative care patient at the Centre diagnosed with the virus, it’s led to the development of a speciality guide to aid end of life care.
“We wanted to put forward a symptom management and medication guide that could be used easily by any of the doctors in the District,” Dr Megan Ritchie, a staff specialist in Palliative Medicine, said.
It details the symptoms patients may experience and recommends types of medication, doses and the frequency at which medication should be administered.
Measures designed to curb the spread of COVID-19 have resulted in changes to the Centre.
Glass panel doors have been installed in two patient rooms so staff are able to observe patients, who it’s suspected may have the virus or are a confirmed COVID-19 case, from outside the room, if needed.
Visitor screening and restrictions are maintained although each patient’s circumstances are assessed case-by-case.
“During COVID-19, there’s a need to strike a balance between public health safety and compassion. Our desire is to deliver compassionate care for all of our patients. We’re walking this journey with them,” Associate Professor Aggarwal said.
Jason Fahey has nothing but praise for those caring for his Mum.
“I wouldn’t want Mum to be anywhere else. The staff are second to none. Everything they do comes from the heart. They go above and beyond,” he said.
Norma Fahey passed away in the days after her son shared her story. Our heartfelt thoughts are with Norma’s family at this very sad time and we thank them for sharing her story.