New palliative care phone service to help rural farming families

New palliative care phone service to help rural farming families

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HELPING HAND: Crop farmer Rodney Pohlner, Woorak, says a new phone medical advice service would have helped him enormously when caring for his late wife.

HELPING HAND: Crop farmer Rodney Pohlner, Woorak, says a new phone medical advice service would have helped him enormously when caring for his late wife.

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The service will help people experiencing a life-limiting illness.

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Woorak crop farmer Rodney Pohlner admired the courageous attitude his late wife Deb showed in her final months living with cancer.

"She never complained, I don't know how, but she was very strong," he said.

Almost four years have passed since Deb's death on Boxing Day 2017.

"She had a melanoma that over 20 years earlier she had taken off her finger ... but it came back," he said.

"We had minor successes along the way with the treatment and helping it disappear for short periods of time over two or three years."

Living regionally presented a number of challenges for the family, including access to specialists in Melbourne some four hours away.

"We were very lucky to have a doctor in Nhill - they change very frequently here and you hardly get to know one before they move on - but her doctor was fantastic.

"If you didn't have that continuity of a local doctor, I think it would be very hard."

At one stage, Mr Pohlner was administering seven different medications for his wife while she was living at home, prompting the family to develop a spreadsheet to keep track of the medication.

"That last few weeks that Deb had at home with the different medications and trying to keep her comfortable was difficult," he said.

After hours when doctors were not available, it often left Mr Pohlner feeling isolated.

"You feel like you're on your own for two thirds of the day," he said.

"I was totally unfamiliar with any of the names of the medication and with their uses and with the dose rates changing nearly daily, I was so lucky to have my extended family to help."

It is experiences like Mr Pohlner's which have prompted the Victorian government to establish the state's first specialist palliative and end of life care phone service.

Launched a year ago, the service was created to address the growing demand on health care services regionally, and to give those living regionally access to health care without the need to travel to Melbourne.

"For people living with life-limiting illnesses, it's not just about being old; it affects babies, young people and middle age and right through to octogenarians," Palliative Care Advice Service nurse unit manager Esther McMillan-Drendel said.

"When farmers get sick, they're practical people and they feel they have to fix everything.

"Equally it could be their wife or partner they are caring for so helping them support their partners in the best way they can is important."

She said the free service was available for anyone living in Victoria.

"This is one place you can go whether you live in Mallacoota or Manangatang to access specialist information, guidance and support when living with or caring for someone with a life limiting illness," she said.

Ms McMillan-Drendel said areas such as what to consider when success planning on the farm were also offered as part of the service.

"This is a really confronting situation and stressful so to be able to contact a central number and find information about what to think about and plan for, what type of health care they will need and as well as what do they need to think about in terms of their farming practices will be helpful," she said.

Mr Pohlner said he thought the service would be " very reassuring" for people who were in similar shoes.

"The health situation can change very quickly sometimes," he said.

"You have a whole host of drugs that you can administer and sometimes having that reassurance is a huge help."

The free and confidential 1800 360 000 service is available 7am-10pm everyday of the year and based out of the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

The story New palliative care phone service to help rural farming families first appeared on Stock & Land.

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