John & Leah

After watching his mum pass away in hospital, Leah’s husband John knew what he wanted.

There were few things John enjoyed more than passing the time at the local bowling club with his mates. John spent most of his afternoons there even though his own playing days were over.

As a Vietnam veteran and the former president of the Oatley RSL Club and the Mortdale Bowling Club in Sydney’s south, John looked forward to the banter and camaraderie of his friends while having a drink and a smoke.

That’s what he was doing the day he took a turn.

Thankfully one of his quick thinking mates was on hand and called an ambulance. In hospital, John and his wife Leah were devastated when a series of tests showed that John had lung cancer as well as two malignant lesions on the brain.

John could no longer drive and he stopped going to the club. From this point on, his life began to revolve around radiotherapy and chemotherapy appointments. The doctors were hopeful that John would respond to the intensive treatment, and initially there were some positive signs around the cancer on his brain, but John’s lungs showed little sign of improvement.

One afternoon after a short stay in hospital, John was sitting at home doing a crossword. Feeling tired, he went to lie down. He had no way of knowing that from this moment on he would never again be out of bed for any significant length of time.

Leah knew that it marked the beginning of John’s final days. In spite of the intensive treatment, the cancer was spreading and although a palliative care nursing service was coming to see John at home, his needs were more than they or Leah (who uses a walking stick) could manage.

After watching his mum pass away in hospital years earlier, John was quite clear that he wanted to die at home. But for Leah, the situation was ‘horrendous’. Most of John’s care fell on Leah, and though she did her best, it was just too much for her.

At one point John fell over getting out of bed three times in the space of 24 hours. On each occasion, Leah had to call an ambulance to help pick him up. But John was determined and knew what he wanted - he still did not want to leave his home.

At this point in time, HammondCare became involved in John’s care. A small team of HammondCare workers began visiting each morning and evening as part of a palliative home support package.

They provided specialised, multi-disciplinary care for John, and it was an enormous relief to Leah to know that John was finally receiving the care he so badly needed. But more than that, they did the jobs that Leah couldn’t do, such as change sheets, straighten his bed, and make sure he was clean and comfortable as his condition deteriorated.

They even helped with the laundry and made cups of tea for Leah when she was feeling stretched. If John was thirsty, the care workers would let Leah know and show her how to help him drink with a syringe when using a cup became too difficult.

Their help meant that Leah could finally have some time to look after herself. She was able to do some of the simple but important things that she just hadn’t had time to do – like having a shower or feeding the dogs –without having to worry about John.

‘I really couldn’t have survived without my helpers’, she says. ‘I had two hours peace of mind each day because they were here. When I knew they were coming the next morning it would help me to relax. It was a huge relief’.

John passed away peacefully at home, just as he had wished. Leah remains grateful for the care workers who made it possible for John to die at home and who helped her through such a hard time: ‘Those gorgeous ladies always put a smile on my face’.

Case notes

As part of the Palliative Care Home Support program HammondCare’s care workers attended to John’s personal care needs, changed his bed, maintained his hygiene, provided equipment such as bed protectors, administered creams and mouth washes and provided guidance and support to Leah.
This situation was particularly challenging. It was obvious that John was not going to accept an admission to hospital for end-of-life care and there was a concern that his care would be sub-optimal. The involvement of HammondCare provided the additional support needed for John to have his wish fulfilled to remain at home during his final days.
Marg Deacon
Case Manager