Talking about death and dying is not easy in Chinese culture. Dorothy Yiu, Manager (Pro Bono) of the Chinese Cancer and Chronic Illness Society Victoria (left) spoke with Ms Zhou (right) who cares for Mr Wang, who has brain cancer, about their experience of palliative care and how it has improved Mr Wang’s quality of life and has helped Ms Zhou to care for him.
Diagnosed with brain cancer
Mr Wang and his wife Ms Zhou are migrants from China who arrived in Australia many decades ago.
“We used to go on road trips on the weekends and holidays. Then in 2017 we had a car accident on our way to a mountain,” said Ms Zhou.
Ms Zhou was concerned as Mr Wang had had some accidents previously. She suggested that Mr Wang have a brain scan after the accident to see if there was a serious health condition.
Mr Wang was diagnosed with brain cancer in early 2018 and received a gloomy prognosis, leaving Ms Zhou to act as the primary caregiver of Mr Wang.
Under the care of Ms. Zhou, Mr. Wang’s condition was well managed. Over time he felt physically and mentally exhausted and required many check-ups at the GP. Ms Zhou faced language barriers, especially while talking to healthcare professionals and arranging transport. She realised that she would need support services to help her.
Referred to palliative care
After several operations and chemotherapy, Mr Wang was referred to Eastern Palliative Care (EPC) from St. Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne. The social worker and nurse from EPC continued to provide support for Mr Wang and Ms Zhou, and visited them at home every two or three weeks.
The nurse checked Mr Wang’s physical condition and the social worker talked to Mr Wang about his mental health. Although Mr Wang was able to communicate in English, an interpreter from EPC always came along during home visits. EPC also provided Mr Wang with transport support between his home and hospitals or medical clinics.
“I found the EPC volunteers warm and friendly. The volunteers would usually stay with my wife and I when attending doctors’ appointments,” said Mr Wang.
The couple say the service was incredibly beneficial and the support both the patient and carer’s needs.
“Such supportive service is like a charcoal in the snow. It is a great relief for patients and their carers,” said Ms Zhou.
EPC also referred Ms Zhou to the Chinese Cancer and Chronic Illness Society of Victoria (CCCIS) in September 2019 to provide additional cultural support. Ms Zhou felt very relieved having a Chinese social worker to talk to her and she felt supported.
The CCCIS social worker provided care and support to access needed services, including applying for the Multi-Purpose Taxi Program and My Aged Care Package, transport to doctors’ appointments, and emotional support. Ms Zhou is very appreciative of the support provided by the worker.
Mr Wang and Ms Zhou understand that sickness and death are inevitable in life. Talking about death and dying is not easy in Chinese culture. However, they are grateful for the palliative care and support provided by EPC and CCCIS that help to allow Mr Wang to be cared for at home and maintain his quality of life.
Need help? Call Palliative Care Victoria on 9662 9644 during business hours.