“I can’t believe it’s September again. I’m going to have to prepare for another Christmas and plant tomatoes for the summer!” says Betty, a 78-year-old lady who receives palliative care at home from Melbourne City Mission.
Betty’s says this with astonishment.
For many years, Betty has lived with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). She says this terminal lung disease “makes it very hard to breathe and can be really scary.”
“People find it difficult to accept that I’m not going to get better. Friends phone but visits are rare, except from my family.”
Fortunately, Betty’s life has improved and she no longer feels so lonely since the Melbourne City Mission Community Palliative Care Team became involved 18 months ago.
Trained palliative care nurses visit Betty regularly and help to manage her symptoms and pain.
“When I’m very unwell, I think that must be how dying feels. But after the palliative care nurse visits and there is no need to admit me to hospital, I’m very relieved. I realise I’m not going to die just yet,” explains Betty.
Addressing fears, enjoying the moment
Palliative care counsellors have helped Betty to manage her anxiety and to discuss her end of life wishes.
Chris is a trained volunteer member of the team who visits Betty each week. She has helped Betty to get her affairs in order. They also garden, shop and go on outings together.
“Because I was afraid of going to hospital in the future, Chris took me to visit the Northern Hospital Palliative Care Unit. I now feel less afraid of that possibility,” Betty says with relief.
Betty told Chris she would like to have her ashes scattered in the wind, so Chris organised a special tour of the Woodlands Homestead in Tullamarine by Paul, a Parks Victoria ranger. Paul drove them around the park and to the highest point.
“I was struck by the beauty of the landscape and up there I felt I was floating in the breeze. It made me feel free. I haven’t felt that way for years due to my illness. It was marvellous!”
“I don’t think I would have lived as long as I have without the palliative care and support provided by the staff and volunteers at Melbourne City Mission. They help me to enjoy my life more and keep my sanity. I know someone is keeping an eye on me and they’ll get help if I need it,” says Betty.
We would like to thank Betty, Chris and Melbourne City Mission Palliative Care for their kind permission to share this story.
Our thanks to Kate Wellard for visiting Betty and Chris and writing this story in her capacity as a volunteer writer with PCV.