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Everyone has a story to tell: a Victorian Polish palliative care approach


Polish Community Council of Victoria CEO, Borzena Iwanowski (4th from right) and Palliative Care Project Officer, Janina Dytman (far right) at the biography training session.

In-language biography program

“Life Storytelling has many benefits including improved mental and spiritual health, greater clarity and perspective of daily life, increased happiness and wellbeing”, says Janina Dytman, Palliative Care Project Officer.

In the Palliative Care Project of Polish Community Council of Victoria (PCCV), participants have a unique opportunity to share their story through the biography program. Each client can spend one-on-one time on a regular basis with an active and engaged listener. Experiences and memories of the past are kept alive and transcribed into Life Journals, a wonderful gift for them and their families.

Conversations about care – in Polish language

Janina and Borzena Iwanowski, CEO PCCV have taken the conversations to a broader level.

“It is important for people in the community to discuss their wishes for the final stages of their life. This includes accommodation choices, how they wish to put their affairs in order, end of life care and how they would like to be remembered.”

The conversations are not easy. To help families, staff and volunteers in aged care and health services break the ice, PCCV uses aids such as Conversation Starter cards with an accompanying journal called ‘Your Life Story’. This resource was produced by Queensland based organisation, ‘Your Life Talks’.  The cards are available in English, Polish, Vietnamese, Chinese and Spanish languages.

‘Whole-of-family’ palliative support

Professionally trained staff and volunteers in the Palliative Care Project provide culturally appropriate services to address the needs and challenges faced by Polish-speaking clients with a terminal illness, their carers and families. This support includes:

  • Help to live at home as long as possible, so services are tailored to the individual needs of the client.
  • A holistic support system for carers and families who may be struggling to manage care.
  • Community information sessions by bilingual educators about palliative care, advanced care planning, care for people living with dementia and for carers and their families.

A sense of belonging

Individuals, carers and families acknowledge the support and the difference it has made. As one individual participant expressed, “Because of your program we have access to our community, to leave the house, enjoy social contact, meet new people and revive old friendships.”

Carers too feel the benefit: “I enjoy talking to other people who are in a similar situation and love the Polish aspect of the program. I do not feel alone,” says one carer. Another echoes the benefit of sharing care, “I am very happy with the care provided by the Polish Community Council for my mum. It (gives us) a sense of belonging and a chance to share common cultural interests”.

 For further information and to make a referral, please contact: Janina Dytman, Palliative Care Project Officer, Polish Community Council of Victoria, Ph: 03 9569 4020

Palliative support volunteers from Victoria’s Polish community
(L) PCCV Christmas party December 2019; (R) Carers excursion to a blueberry farm at Silvan


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