Adored Helen achieves her wish to die at home, helped by the Palliative Care Home Support Program

Helen Buckley Palliative Care Home Support Program family grandchildren father children grandmotherHelen Buckley died in the early hours of May 6 2021 exactly the way she wanted – at her Frenchs Forest home with her family around her, thanks to the support from a special HammondCare program that is coming to an end.

Helen, 81, had been battling a Glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. The family have reached out to thank the HammondCare Northern Beaches Specialist Community Palliative Care team, including nurses, volunteers, occupational therapists and pastoral staff, that provided assistance for Helen.

They have offered an extra special thanks for sensitive, hands-on help provided through the Palliative Care Home Support Program (PCHSP) in Helen’s final hours.

The glowing praise for the PCHSP comes as HammondCare’s contract to continue the service concludes on June 30 this year.

Daughter Maryan Bova admits, even with her own background as a Registered Nurse, watching her mum die was a confronting time. Her final days pushed the family to the brink as the cancer took over and her body began shutting down.

“Strangely enough, despite the brain cancer being at its peak, mum’s clarity was sharp and being at home allowed us to be there for her to share the conversations you want to have before you die," says Maryan. “I was able to record these conversations, which I will treasure forever – that would not have been possible in a hospital setting.

“At the end of the day we got there – and it was really a very beautiful experience to have gone through on reflection,” Maryan said.

Helen Buckley Palliative Care Home Support Program woman carer sittingShe said the family was “totally blown away” by the support HammondCare gave us. “I think the best way to describe it was we felt very held.”

Helen’s funeral at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Forestville, on May 14 was a celebration of a life well lived. She was a much-loved mother and grandmother who shaped many young minds as a high school teacher, including at St Pius X College, Chatswood.

Through the PCHSP, which offers 48 hours or more of care worker support, HammondCare staff member Kim Low could keep Helen comfortable through the last two weeks of her life, providing the family with needed respite.

In the early hours of May 14, Mr Low had the responsibility to call the family to Helen’s bedside for an unforgettable period of prayer and last goodbyes.

”He was watching over her through the night, keeping her comfortable and letting us know whenever something was needed, such pain medication that the family administered,” Maryan said.

Helen Buckley Palliative Care Home Support Program woman smilingFuture End of Life Packages will now be offered through the Out of Hospital Care Program, administered through Local Health Districts from July this year.

Since the PCHSP began in 2013, HammondCare has provided 6010 packages to help people die at home with their loved ones in a consortium with Sacred Heart snf Calvary in seven NSW Local Health Districts.

PCHSP Manager Genevieve Antill said the service, which directly employs 13 frontline carers and six coordinating staff, and has brokered to agencies throughout the state, has been an extraordinary success.

“Of those patients who have taken up the packages, 73% have achieved their desire to die at home with their loved ones, just like in Helen’s case,” Ms Antill said. “This is something the team is so proud of.”

Kim, who has been with the PCHSP since it began, said he was privileged to have supported Helen’s family through her closing days.

“It’s been so rewarding to be there over the years to help so many families get through these difficult times and make it as easy as I can,” Mr Low said.