Thanks to Calvary’s new home-based palliative care service – the first of its kind offered in South Australia – and the wonderful support of her sister Christine O’Loughlin, Mary’s wish was granted.
“She was a very determined lady and she wanted to stay in her own home as long as she could,” Christine said of her late sister, who passed away on December 18 last year at the age of 80.
“Mary lived at ECH on South Terrace and she was very loved and well known in Hutt Street. She was still mobile (with the aid of a walker) so we would often go down there for a coffee,” Christine said.
“It was wonderful to be able to spend that time with her in those last months, and for her to be in her own home.”
As Christine explained, Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer 20 years ago and in the last four years of her life had battled with bone cancer.
“In the past two years she had radiotherapy to combat the pain, but she was still fiercely independent, was mobile and still living at home.
“However by July it became obvious she would need more constant care.”
During a stay in Calvary North Adelaide, it was suggested to Mary that she would be a good candidate for its in-home palliative care service.
The nurse-led program is backed by the medical team at Mary Potter Hospice, and can draw on the services of occupational therapists, physiotherapists and social workers. It forges strong relationships with the client’s general practitioner and since opening in September last year the service has supported 50 terminally ill patients.
Program manager Kevin Hardy, who has more than 20 years’ experience as a palliative care nurse, is one of three nurses employed by the service. They visit clients in their homes every couple of days and after hours when needed, and 24-hour phone support is always available.
They also organise any equipment that may be needed by the client in their home.
“Our objective is to keep people at home as long as we can, by providing continuity of care,” Kevin said.
“Figures show it is resulting in a reduction in Emergency Department presentations and it offers a choice for patients.”
For Christine, knowing that Kevin and his team were only a phone call away if Mary’s health suddenly deteriorated gave her “peace of mind”.
“The team was just marvellous. They helped us to organise a walker and all the aids Mary would need to be at home. Nothing was too much trouble.
“The whole care from Mary Potter was unbelievable. They came every couple of days and I always knew that I had a phone number to call 24 hours a day if I had any concerns about Mary.”
In the final couple of weeks’ of her life, it became clear that Mary would need more full time professional care and she moved into Mary Potter Hospice.
On the day Mary passed, Christine said she intuitively knew that something had changed, and was grateful that she could be by her beloved sister’s side until the end.