Kelly Arthurs is dying to talk
Sydney-based HammondCare clinical nurse consultant, Kelly Arthurs, provides palliative care education in residential care settings.
Below, Kelly answers questions from the Dying to Talk Discussion Starter. For support in discussing your end-of-life wishes with loved ones, download it from www.dyingtotalk.org.au
If you had a condition that you could not recover from, what would be important to you, towards the end of your life?
- To be kept comfortable and to be given kind, gentle care.
- I would like to remain at home as long as possible, but I’d have a clear Plan B in place in case it didn’t work out.
- I’d like health professionals to communicate with me and my family openly and honestly. I’d like my family to be regularly updated and informed.
- I’d like everyone involved in my care to introduce themselves with a smile and always treat me as an individual. I love the Hellomynameis movement out of the UK.
- Sexuality and intimacy in end-of-life is in the forefront of my mind at the moment because of a new program at the Neringah Palliative Care Unit. If I’m in a palliative care unit at the end of my life I know I would definitely use a ‘companion bed’ and ‘allocated uninterrupted private time’ with my loved ones.
- I would like to know my family will be supported after my death and have access to bereavement support if they need it.
Are there any pets that you would like to see or be with you, if this is possible?
Yes. Unfortunately, our beautiful Labradoodle, Daisy, died this year. She was a palliative care pets as therapy dog. Luckily our Burmese cat: Frank is just as in-tune and cuddly.
Would you prefer a quiet environment or do you prefer activity and chatter around you?
I’m sure if I was comfortable I would love to be surrounded by activity, family, friends and laughter. I’d like to hear about the things going on in everyone’s daily life which would make me feel connected and part of everything. If I needed some quiet time I know my loved ones wouldn’t be offended if I asked for it.
Would you like music to be playing and if so, what style or what music?
I would definitely like music playing. The style would depend on my mood, but the wide range would include Chilli Peppers, Sara McLaughlin, John Coltrane, Lilly Allen, INXS, Salt & Pepper, The Eagles…
If possible would it be important to you to have time outside?
Definitely. I find being outside and in nature nourishing. It would be important for me to feel the sun and breeze on my skin. Sand between my toes and a dip in the ocean would be even better.
When I worked in the Mt Druitt Palliative Care Unit, most of the rooms opened up to a beautiful native garden. We would wheel people’s beds outside and they’d enjoy the seasons, birds and scents. I’m hoping the new palliative care unit planned for the Mona Vale Hospital site will also have the same design, but with ocean views.
Would you prefer to be surrounded by lots of family and friends, or would you prefer one or two closest people to be with you? Is there anyone particular you would like to see or talk to?
I’d like to be surrounded by family and friends. I could see myself enjoying a glass of champagne with my girlfriends served from the happy hour trolley.
I hope I will be able to educate people about end-of-life care and death through those visits, especially children.
Are there any cultural or religious practices you would like to observe?
I am Catholic and pastoral care input would be important for me. I also strongly associate with the Buddhist faith. I find Buddhist chanting soothing and comforting, so I would like recordings of chanting played softly.
Is there anything else you can think of that you would like?
Good personal hygiene, including good mouth and skin care! I’d like my hair washed and brushed. I’m sure I’d enjoy a massage.
What is on your bucket list of things you would like to do or achieve before you die?
- Seeing my gorgeous kids, nieces and nephews grow up and reach their full potential.
- Continuing to improve quality of life for people in need. I hope to achieve my goal of becoming a palliative care nurse practitioner and be instrumental in improving palliative care access for everyone, especially disadvantaged, vulnerable populations. I’d like to have a positive impact on the health of Indigenous peoples and their communities. I want to spend time working among Indigenous people in Far North Queensland and other rural and remote areas.
- I lived in Whistler, Canada, for a few years where I did a lot of snowboarding. I’d love to go back with my children and spend a good couple of months there, seeing my kids perfect their technique.
- Walk the Camino trail in Spain with my partner
How did you feel during the process of completing this form? Was there anything about the process that interested or surprised you?
I enjoyed completing this. I’ll take any opportunity to create awareness and start conversations about end-of-life.
I live life as though one day I will die and I’m very comfortable with that.
There are a lot of people that don’t have conversations about death and dying and I see the negative impact that has, which includes worsening stress, anxiety and grief. It can also prevent the best and most appropriate care being given.