Palliative care supports not only the patients, but also their families

Gus and Tina are soul mates. At ages 96 and 91 years old, they have had an amazing journey together. They are still living in the same home where they have spent 40 of the 70 years they’ve been married. It’s the home where they have celebrated many birthdays, anniversaries, hosted family Christmas dinners and made many more memories.

Gus and Tina 2

Gus and Tina’s wedding

Both are children of Greek immigrants who had a tough childhood. Gus had to drop out of school to support the family. He later went on to get a GED and worked his way up from a factory worker to a supervisor. Tina spent time raising her family, but as the children needed less of her time and Gus decided to retire, she got her realtor’s license. Gus, meanwhile, was trying his hand at painting and soon filled up the walls with his art work.

But now both of them can barely walk. They need help with all of their basic needs like bathing, getting to the bathroom and dressing. Their memories are fading and they remember the “good old days” more clearly than what medications they take or even what they ate for breakfast.

For a long time, they relied on their children for help. Their daughter even moved in with them to take on the role of caregiver. But after more than a year, getting her parents to and from their doctor appointments got to be too much, and Gus and Tina’s primary physician set up a meeting with a palliative care specialist at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton to provide more support.

Gus and Tina 1

Gus and Tina with their palliative care physician, Kavita Sharma, MD

The palliative care physician visited their home and went over everything with a fine-tooth comb. Medications that were absolutely needed were continued. The risks and benefits of other medications were addressed. Long and short-term goals were discussed, along with resources that were available in their community.

The palliative care team is now walking the journey with Gus and Tina’s children to help them make decisions about their parents’ health needs as their situation changes. They are not only supporting Gus and Tina as they “age in place” in their own home, but they’re also supporting their whole family, who can take comfort in knowing there is a plan in place and their loved ones are being well cared for.

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