Ella and Lorna
One day we received a frantic call from a young lady desperate to bring her 57-year-old mother home to pass away in her own environment. She explained that her mother had been suffering with bowel cancer for the last year and the family had now been told that it was terminal with a prognosis of around 3-6 months of life left.
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The daughter, Amy, lived in New Zealand but had come over to see her mother. She herself was 3 months pregnant and had a one year old to look after as well. She explained that her mother was currently in hospital. Doctors had suggested a move to a hospice, but the family wanted mum, Lorna, to come home so that family could be with her during her final months.
Amy did not know whether the move home was possible, she knew that they needed support, but wasn’t sure that the correct health care professionals would be able to work in the home environment. Amy explained that her father, Bob, who ran his own business, was struggling with his wife’s fate and had thrown himself into work. He had shut himself away and didn’t want to make any decisions about Lorna’s care.
Luckily Lorna’s home was quite near Helpd HQ so we offered to visit Amy to discuss it further.
When we arrived at Lorna’s beautiful home we were surprised at how much care and effort had been taken in its decoration and design. We knew that Bob worked in construction, but we hadn’t realised that both he and Lorna had designed this home as somewhere they could live out their days. It was heartbreaking to know that Bob was likely to be living there alone within a year. On the walls were family portraits of Bob, Lorna and their two children Amy and Micheal. Micheal lived locally but was very busy with a young family of his own.
Doctors had explained to Amy that if Lorna came home she would need a carer most of the time, and she was to be cared for in bed. Amy did not want strangers to do this, so she was hoping that she could assist a live in carer to do it. We talked frankly about whether she could manage this whilst pregnant. She felt that she could, and would ensure she communicated with the live in carer if it got too much. She said that her mother’s best friend who lived next door had offered to take over caring duties whenever Amy could not manage.
During our initial meeting Amy talked about how hard her parents had worked to build up their successful business, the design of the family home and the grand plans they had had for their retirement. She explained that this awful turn of events was destroying her father. It was clear to see, as she talked to me whilst still trying to entertain her toddler, that this young lady needed emotional support as well as a physical body of a live in carer to support her mother.
When reaching out to live in carers we paid particular attention to those with palliative care training and experience. We spoke with a few carers that fitted the criteria and eventually placed Ella with the family. Ella had been a nurse in Poland and had moved over to England to be nearer her sister who had emigrated a few years before. Ella knew that she wanted to go back into nursing eventually, however she wanted to work as a live in carer first before completing her nursing conversion courses here in the UK.
On the day Ella arrived, I went over to meet Amy again. Lorna had arrived back home that morning.
From the start Ella and Amy got on very well. Ella was able to show Amy how to support her mother and built up a kind of friendship with her. Ella would often call me to talk about how she would accompany Amy and her toddler son Theo to the park on the weekends when Lorna was settled and Bob was with her. It was comforting to know that our carer was not only supporting Lorna, but helping Amy whilst she was far away from her New Zealand home and friends at such a painful time in her life.
Two months of care passed and suddenly Lorna’s condition started to deteriorate quite rapidly. Ella worked closely with District Nurses who had been brought in to provide Lorna with Morphine needed to help her stay settled and as pain free as possible. Amy, now nearly 6 months pregnant was finding rolling Lorna in bed quite difficult. Luckily Lorna’s best friend was on hand to support whenever required.
During the third month of her time at home Lorna passed away peacefully one morning. Ella, from her nursing and palliative care experience could tell that death was imminent and had told Bob that it was advisable that he did not go to the office that day and stayed with Lorna. Ella had lots of experience of dealing with families and had built up a relationship with Bob. She knew that it was painful for him to lose his wife, however he would want to be with her at the end.
After Lorna’s death, Ella stayed with the family for a few more days, at their request. I don’t think they could face losing Lorna and Ella from the home environment on the same day.