Palliative praise

• Zvi and Carmela Yom-Tov at their home overlooking Hyde Park. Photo by David Bell.

SINCE coming out of a palliative care ward in March, Carmela Yom-Tov says she feels full of gratitude for the care she’s received.

Dr Yom-Tov has terminal blood cancer and didn’t know what to expect after her release from hospital, when she was referred to Silver Chain’s palliative care team “to have as easy a death as possible”. 

“They’ve been just astonishing,” she says, contacting the Voice because she thought the organisation deserved a pat on the back.

“I don’t think I was home for more than a few hours, I got a phone call from Silver Chain to make sure I was okay, and that they’d send a nurse in a short while.”

Services

A retired clinical psychologist who’s lived in South Africa, Israel, and now Australia, Dr Yom-Tov says: “I’ve been here 33 years so I’ve got a comparison. 

“People are quite used to getting services here which in other countries they may not get… you rarely hear praise for the magnificent organisations we have here in Australia – complaints are more common. 

“Here’s Silver Chain, doing this fantastic bit of work for people who are on their way out, and they do it with such commitment, and it’s all free.”

Visits from nurses, a social worker and a palliative care doctor have helped with medication, diet, and seeing if she needs any other help or mobility aids. 

“They’ve all proved so positive and empathetic and knowledgeable and professional.

“I don’t have to worry about a thing. It makes life so much easier when you’re feeling at the end of the world.”

Dr Yom-Tov says before they were referred to the palliative care team “we were managing, but when they arrived it felt very supportive and very secure.. the fact that you know the support is there, it just gives a little sense of security that there’s some place that’s professional, efficient, and knowledgeable that you can contact”. 

Her husband Zvi (featured in the Voice last October for his portrait of local MP John Carey) has been her caregiver, and Dr Yom-Tov says there’s been support offered to him as well.

“When the time comes, and there are clear significant factors when people are at the end stage, then they can help the caregiver decide whether he’d like me to stay home and cope with the symptoms,” or “they will help me get to a hospice”. 

“If I do die at home, then Zvi can just phone them and they can come and help with the papers and so on. [He] won’t need to call the doctors and the ambulance and police.”

Dr Yom-Tov says Zvi is doing okay now “because I’m okay with it. 

“He’s concerned about losing a partner of almost 50 years, but I think we can make it more normal, because it is normal. At some stage we’ve got to go.”

Dr Yom-Tov herself feels “a calm lack of anxiety”.

“There’s a sense of fatalism: That’s what happens to people, we all die, and I’m okay with it. I’ve lived quite an exciting life really, if I look back it was adventurous. I suppose I would call it successful on the whole, so I haven’t had any of the usual anxieties that people feel about dying.”

‘It’s what we do’

We passed on Dr Yom-Tov’s glowing review to Silver Chain’s palliative care team. 

Their clinical nurse consultant manager Sarah Hunter has been a palliative care nurse for over 10 years and says “it continues to be inspiring”.

The palliative team cares for more than 3000 people in Perth a year and she says “we are privileged to be invited into their homes to share and support their journey.

“Our focus is to support choice in relation to each person’s preferred place to be cared for, and alleviate distress caused by symptoms associated with a progressive illness.”

Doctors, nurses, social workers, care aides, spiritual care workers, volunteer coordinators and volunteers themselves make up the teams to look after everything that might come up during palliative care. 

Ms Hunter says Dr Yom-Tov’s words are “a welcome affirmation for our whole team, and it is important to know that we have met her needs and are making a difference.

“Palliative care is a unique speciality where you experience such variety from the people we meet, to the stories they tell and the medical conditions we manage, making it a rewarding, yet challenging career and such a privilege to be part of”.

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