By Eliza Laschon , 22 May 2016, 11:07am
Perth woman Cait Calcutt had a limited understanding of palliative care until the day she reached out to a service which transformed her family’s life. Ms Calcutt’s partner Nigel Livesey was in his early 40s when he was diagnosed with three chronic, life-limiting diseases.
For nine years Ms Calcutt was carer and companion as Mr Livesey’s health waxed and waned from the effects of type 1 diabetes, ulcerative colitis and primary sclerosing cholangitis.
“Nigel Livesey was an extraordinary man with a great thirst for knowledge and a love of music and the arts,” Ms Calcutt said.
“He was an environmental scientist … he adored his daughter.
“Caring for someone who is dying, someone who you love, can be a wonderful and terrible experience all at the same time.
“It was an increasing challenge for him to find a way to live a fulfilling and meaningful life with diminishing physical and mental health.”
In early 2014, Mr Livesey’s health deteriorated rapidly and he was given a maximum of 12 months to live. A family member, who is also a health professional, urged Ms Calcutt to seek out palliative care services and the advice changed their lives dramatically.
Ms Calcutt said while she had tended to think of palliative care as relating only to end of life, it could be so much more for both carers and their loved ones.
“It was life changing, life transforming, life affirming, life giving and that is the power of access to palliative care services,” she said.
I felt like a great weight of stress and responsibility had been lifted that the care of Nigel was being shared.
“The treatment switched from being about the disease to about the person and how he could live with the best quality of life in the time that he had left.”
Mr Livesey was able to leave hospital and survived another six months with the support of Silver Chain, and the Health Department’s Home and Community Care program.
“He was overjoyed … it gave him an independent life for the last few months of his life, to live free of pain as much as possible,” Ms Calcutt said.
“I don’t think he would have lived as long … it was a precious time, he was able to celebrate our daughter’s fifth birthday.”
Ms Calcutt is now a project officer at Palliative Care WA where she devotes her time to expanding palliative care services and raising awareness of them, particularly in regional areas. She urged people to discuss the subject with loved ones.
“It’s never too early to have those conversations about palliative care with someone who has a life-limiting illness that they are going to die from,” she said.
“In fact having those conversations about death and about palliative care and about what you want can be a really important and meaningful discussion. It’s a positive experience.”
Palliative Care Week starts today and Palliative Care WA executive officer Lana Glogowski hoped it would prompt people to initiate discussions on the subject.
“We are educating people on an approach called advanced care planning, which encourages people to have conversations with family and friends and their health professionals about the choices that they would like to make at end of life,” she said.
“Do that now, rather than later. Have those conversations in a less stressful environment, make some decisions about the way they would like to die and to share those with important people around them.”Leave a reply