Helen is living life to the full as a palliative care patient

Helen Long throws a great party, regardless of being 89 years old and living with a life-limiting lung condition.

In early June, Helen is hosting a high tea soiree with friends at her Mosman home to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Centre of attention will be a seven-layer lemon Swiss roll and amaretti trifle, a recipe that won a British baking contest to become the official dessert of the Platinum Jubilee.

Helen_Long_front_with_HammondCare_Palliative_Care_Nurse_Rachael_ZielinskiHelen said: “My friend Jacqui has sourced the recipe and we all want to give it a taste. I can’t wait!”

As HammondCare marks National Palliative Care Week, Helen’s situation is a great example of how a high quality of life can continue while being a recipient of palliative care. It does not mean your life is over.

Helen certainly likes to entertain. On May 5 last year the excuse to party was the 100th anniversary of Chanel No.5 perfume, which Helen wears each day. “You know, it became so popular because it was the first perfume to include lots of other ingredients,” Helen said.

She was referred to HammondCare’s Community Palliative Care team late last year due to her ongoing lung condition.

She benefits from a range of support from a multidisciplinary team led by Palliative Care Nurse Rachael Zielinski (pictured, left, with Helen Long). Others involved include pastoral care worker Susan Baumhammer, a physiotherapist and a volunteer biographer who is spending time chronicling her life. A HammondCare Occupational Therapist has also paid a visit.

While Helen lives with challenges with her breathing and osteoporosis, her mind is as sharp as ever. She doesn’t hesitate to express her thanks for the palliative care professionals available to support her.

“They are always bright and pleasant people to deal with and they always have time for me. They are a great comfort,” Helen said.

“The team always have time – they are never rushed.”

Growing up in Mosman, Helen studied teaching before taking on her first assignment at Camperdown Public School. She continued teaching for 20 years.

She married dashing Max, a local GP, in 1969. Among their adventures was five years at Broken Hill where Max was a medic with the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Sadly, Max died 26 years ago. In 2019, Helen and her daughter Jane put on a party, of course, for what would have been the 50th wedding anniversary.

Rachael said she always looks forward to her time with Helen and supporting her, whatever her needs might be. She is passionate about her job as a Palliative Care Nurse.

Helen_Long_daughter_Jane_and_her_late_husband_“It’s about a lot more than holding someone’s hand. Palliative Care Nurses are highly trained specialists who can help with managing symptoms, as well as supporting patients and their families/caregivers, in relieving distress both physical and emotional,” she said.

“We walk alongside them, supporting them during this time of their lives.”

HammondCare General Manager Health and Palliative Care Andrew Montague said the multi-disciplinary team approach to support Helen continue to live actively in her own home is an example of how palliative care should work.

“Great palliative care provides physical, spiritual and psychosocial assessment and treatment from a team that works together to ensure a patient is comfortable and has quality of life,” Dr Montague said.

Find out more about how HammondCare is honouring Palliative Care Week