Palliative care helps extend quality of life

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Palliative care helps extend quality of life

A man from Victoria who is receiving extended palliative care
Allan and Tricia Ansell

Tricia Ansell is a nurse from Victoria, whose husband Allan was first diagnosed with lung disease in 2016. Initially, doctors told the family that Allan may not live for more than a year or two.  

Six years on since the news of Allan’s prognosis, and Tricia truly believes that her husband would not still be alive if it were not for the care and continued support of the Community Palliative Care team at Barwon Health, as well as his other health professionals.  

‘In fact, only in March 2021, while receiving care in the inpatient Palliative Care Unit, the doctor commented that there is no logical reason that Allan has defied all odds to still be with us.’ 

Almost a year after Allan’s prognosis, the physiotherapist who was seeing Allan weekly, suggested the family contact their local Community Palliative Care team, to see if they could assist with his symptom control. Despite Tricia being a nurse, she remembers her hesitation at starting palliative care.  

‘Even as a nurse I equated ‘Palliative care’ with ‘end-of-life care’. How wrong I was!’ 

After contacting the Barwon Community Palliative Care team, a doctor and nurse came to visit Allan and Tricia in their home. 'From the moment they began chatting, they overwhelmingly reassured us that indeed they could assist my husband,' says Tricia. 

Tricia shares that the care Allan has received has been determined largely through a collaborative effort, to ensure it is what he and the family are comfortable with.  

‘The care has been increased and decreased depending on Allan's situation. Initially we had the same nurse that came all the time, then, when she moved on, we had several different nurses come to visit. They have all been fantastic – responsive, compassionate, professional and eager to assist.’ 

Tricia appreciated the intuition and initiative the staff brought, saying they just knew instinctively what was needed.  

‘Some come and just see what we need, even when we can’t see it ourselves.’ 

The experience has shown Tricia and their whole family, that palliative care really is more than they had initially understood. The Community Palliative Care Team helped refer Allan – and Tricia – to the spiritual worker, counsellors and to the palliative care doctors when they most needed them.  

Allan's family
Sam, Sarah, Emma, Tricia, Allan and Nick

‘The palliative care team have allowed me to care for my husband at home at every turn of his illness, permitting me to administer all the medications he requires when he requires them. It’s a relief that he does not have to wait for treatment but can have it immediately.'

The trajectory of Allan's  illness has been longer than expected and longer than the typical palliative care patient, and for this, the whole family is truly grateful.  Both Tricia and Allan have valued the patience and support of the nurses and doctors involved in his care, and how they have looked outside the normal path and have individualised his care. 

‘They have all truly cared for Allan and myself and for that, we can’t thank them all enough,’ shares Tricia.