ANNIE Young and her husband Robert were at a loss when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
“It was totally out of left field, as pancreatic cancer often is,” she said.
“And we were really on our own. We had no idea where to turn to, what to do.
“The diagnosis was no treatment – inoperable – go home.”
But a palliative care program being piloted at Bendigo Health supported them through Mr Young’s battle with the disease, right up until the end.
As the name suggests, the Palliative Care At Home program supports patients and their carers who nominate home as their preferred place of care and death.
About 81 people have been involved in the program in the 12 months since it became available.
Palliative Care At Home operates within a 30 kilometres of Bendigo at the moment.
The program is funded until July, at this stage.
“The team arrived at our home and just… gave us the guidance, they enveloped us, they supported us – we were never alone again. It was wonderful,” Mrs Young said.
Interactions with the team became more frequent as Mr Young became increasingly unwell.
With the team's support, Mrs Young said she and her family were able to keep Mr Young at home at the end of his life.
“He loved his home,” she said.
“He knew we were there, he knew he was at home – I’m sure of that.”
About 70 per cent of people say they want to be at home of end of life care, according to Bendigo Health palliative care nurse Cathy Griffin.
But only about 14 per cent achieve this.
“We’ve had very good outcomes,” Ms Griffin said of the pilot program.
“Ninety per cent of the people we've had go through have achieved their preferred place of care or preferred place of death.”
She said there were other benefits to the program, with people who received care in their own homes tending to need less medication, experience less stress, and with better grieving outcomes for families.
Without the program, Bendigo Health palliative medicine physician Dr Becky Chapman said it was likely a significant proportion of the 81 people who had accessed the service would have spent either time in hospital or a longer time in hospital.
“Some may have required admission to a nursing home,” Dr Chapman said.
“After the first six months of the program demand for the service had doubled, and we anticipate it may increase further.”
Bendigo Health is hopeful the Department of Health and Human Services will continue the program beyond July.
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.