A Jolly Trolley brings cheer to palliative care patients as $15 000 is raised for complementary therapy programs
Margaret Meisel has been surprised.
“It has been a totally different experience to what I expected. You just get the wrong impression about palliative care, don’t you?
“It’s very scary expression and it’s totally different to that. I feel as though I’m not on my own. There’s help there,” she said.
Margaret’s a cancer patient who’s receiving care at the Concord Centre for Palliative Care, which is based in the grounds of Concord Hospital.
The 20-bed inpatient Centre provides sensitive, compassionate and multidisciplinary care for patients in Sydney Local Health District who have a life-limiting illness and their families.
Palliative care aims to support patients and their families by addressing the physical, emotional, spiritual and practical needs associated with their illness and its treatment.
At the Centre, care is provided by doctors, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, clinical psychologists, complementary therapists and volunteers.
This year marks the Centre’s fifth anniversary after first opening its doors in 2014.
“The main aim of palliative care is to improve patient’s quality of life. The most important thing is helping patients live with their disease and live right through to the end,” said the Centre’s head, Associate Professor Ghauri Aggarwal.
“There’s been so much activity over the past five years. Apart from the core work that we do, we have also developed an amazing complementary therapy program.
“Part of traditional care, that’s missing in the hospital, is all of these complementary things. So, as a service we’ve really grappled with and thought ‘What are these extra things that we could provide for our patients?’” Associate Professor Aggarwal said.
The program now includes massage, diversional, pet, music and art therapies and the popular Jolly Trolley. The Centre’s volunteer team take the trolley, filled with an assortment of alcoholic beverages, soft drinks and snacks on rounds of the unit.
“I had been told that the Jolly Trolley comes around. All of a sudden, there’s a knock on the door and this lovely lady came in and introduced herself,” Margaret said.
“She was such a friendly lady. She sat down and had a little chat. I had a little beer from the trolley. It was lovely. What a nice idea. They [the volunteers] do great work.”
Ansia Jang is a volunteer hairdresser and make-up artist at the Centre.
“I provide self-care – washing patients’ hair and giving them a haircut. It’s an instant mood-lifting experience.
“Every time, what I notice before they get their hair done and then after they get their hair done… their mood changes,” Ansia said.
Three times a week, Tafline Giannoulis provides gentle massage therapy for patients at the Centre.
“It’s so important to touch someone when they are in that final stage. I think it takes away fear…and it gives them support without words.”
The service is also offered to families confronted with losing a loved one.
“You can see the difference. Just that half-an-hour in here, they go back to the room a different person. Stronger. I think it’s really important for them. Everyone puts on a brave face but everyone’s hurting and needs a little bit of extra care,” she said.
Jacqueline Martinez is the Centre’s Volunteer Coordinator and said they are key members of the palliative care team.
“We look after the patient and their family in quite a holistic way. They get to come to a centre that hopefully feels a little bit like home and we try to support them as individuals and not forget that they still have value,” she said.
All of the complementary therapies and volunteer services are funded by donations.
“People are quite surprised when they come here. And, they’re even more surprised when we tell them it’s all funded from donations. That’s what they don’t realise.
“So, it’s really important for us to continue to source donations so that patients and families in the future can continue to benefit from the things that we offer,” Jacqueline said.
About $15 000 was raised at an anniversary celebration this month.
At the Centre, each patient has their own room with a sunlit courtyard. Families are encouraged to help personalise the patient’s space, bring home-cooked meals and stay overnight. There are no restrictions on visiting hours.
There’s a kitchen and a dining area where patients can share a meal together plus a lounge with books and children’s activities.
There’s also the newly-opened outdoor space, The Sun Garden, where families can spend time. It was brought about by a generous bequest.
“One by one we’ve slowly built these extra complementary therapies. It is so wonderful when we see patients transform in our unit.
“It doesn’t mean they are going to get better in terms of their disease but it’s wonderful to see them suddenly revive in terms of some energy or getting though some unfinished business or just not being so afraid of palliative care anymore,” Associate Professor Aggarwal said.
Margaret will return home after her stay at the Centre and will be supported by the Community Palliative Care Team.
“I was in pretty bad shape when I came here. I feel better now than I did, leading up to palliative care. I feel stronger. I feel ready to go home. There’s so much help available.
“I’d like to spend a little more time at home. I’ve got a grandson. He’s five and I’d like to see a little more of his development. He’s very special. I don’t have great expectations but just a little more quality time. We all want more time don’t we? But look anything extra’s a bonus.”
Watch a video about the Concord Centre for Palliative Care here