Palliative Care Improves Quality of Life

In the quiet of the early morning, as she would sip her coffee and look out her kitchen window, Marsha P. would wax reflective: How do I want to live the rest of my life? What more do I want to accomplish? These were hypothetical questions, because Marsha, a longtime cancer survivor, was doing just fine—going to work, enjoying life in the city, spending time with loved ones. These days, though, the same questions have taken on an urgency. After a recurrence of cancer, which has resulted in more pain and less mobility, she is reassessing her life … with the support of Seniors At Home’s Palliative Care Program.

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“My death is not imminent,” says Marsha, who is in her early 60s, “and I hope to live many more years. But my circumstances have changed, so the support of this Seniors At Home program is vital.”

Marsha meets regularly with one of the agency’s Palliative Care volunteers for conversation and a light meal. They discuss challenges in her life: depression, isolation, fear of loss of independence. Sometimes George, her volunteer, drives her to the doctor’s or for a short walk on the beach or in Golden Gate Park. “It’s not at all gloom and doom,” says Marsha. “It’s just the opposite. At times, we all need to talk to a caring person who is not a close friend or relative to gain perspective and renewed hope. With George and the other people at Seniors At Home, I have a sounding board so that I can make decisions about my care going forward.”

Palliative care is about relieving suffering at any stage of an illness. It is not only about assisting those who are dying—that’s just one part of it. It’s about helping people make choices that allow for the highest possible quality of life, whether they’re managing a chronic condition, like diabetes or arthritis, or dealing with a serious, perhaps life-limiting, illness.

While enhancing the lives of Seniors At Home clients, the Palliative Care Program also touches their loved ones’ lives for the better. Marc H. called the program when his 85-year-old father began sharply declining after years of suffering from congestive heart failure. “The program was immediately helpful to both my dad and me,” Marc says. “With homecare aides on hand, he no longer was burdened with tasks of daily living that had become too hard for him. And for me, it was a relief knowing that my dad was comfortable and safe during his final months.”

To learn more about the Palliative Care Program, call 415-449-3700 or click here.

To become a Palliative Care volunteer, learn more about our annual training course.