When a loved one is dying, palliative care at home can seem daunting but with organisations such as Colbrow Care on your side, it does not have to be. Here the CEO of Colbrow, Christina Decker, shares her personal story of palliative care in the home and why she is so passionate about allowing everyone the chance to die at home, if that is their wish.
“I was 17 when my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. She was very ill and needed major surgeries and numerous treatments. In many other families where wishes were not discussed, my grandmother would have remained in hospital, both to recover from the surgeries and ultimately, to die. But as a nurse herself, the last place she wanted to be in was a hospital!
Because of the commitment of her family, and in particular, my Mum, who is also a nurse, she stayed with us in our home during her recovery from the surgeries and then, later, her death. The length between my grandmother’s diagnosis and passing was almost 2 years and for a significant period of this time, she stayed with us. After her first round of surgery she recovered at our home, with the assistance of Mum, before going back to her own home for a short time. Then, after her second round of surgery, she stayed with us until she died almost eight months later.
As a granddaughter, having my grandmother die in our house was an amazing experience. It was joyous, spiritual, confronting, overwhelming and a little bit frightening. But I watched my aunts, uncles and cousins come together as a family like I had never seen before. The experience was utterly irreplaceable for me. And I really can only imagine the peace it brought my grandmother for her to live out her final months, weeks, days and hours surrounded by the people who loved her in a familiar environment.
When my father was diagnosed with a terminal illness, there was never any possibility of Dad going into hospital to live out his final days. The experience of Dad receiving palliative care at home and dying at home was more profound in a lot of ways, given that it was my father who was dying. We, as his children, had an opportunity to say good bye to him in the comfort of both his and our home. Dad did not spend his final days and hours in a sterile, unforgiving hospital ward, rather, he died in our family home that he and my mother bought some 40 odd years before. I will never forget that time in my life. And I know, as a result of the conversation Mum had with Dad, that Dad would not have had it any other way.
Dying is a human experience, not just a medical one and it is so important that this is message is received by the general public. With the right supports around you and your loved one, they can die in familiar surroundings, surrounded by those that love them. It is not something that will be regretted.
I am so proud that through Colbrow Care’s home nursing care in Melbourne many hundreds of people have been able to die at home.”