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National Palliative Care Week 2021

Centre offers patients and their families compassionate care.

A family standing close together
SydneyConnect Image: Roger and Maria Bampton and their family

Roger and Maria Bampton are childhood sweethearts.

"We met as teenagers at Coogee Beach and married five years later in 1974. We've been together for more than 50 years," Maria said.

The couple is now facing their greatest challenge.

In 2018, Roger was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. The disease affects the muscles that enable people to move, speak, swallow and breathe. The average life expectancy is two to three years. There is no known cure.

"We were devastated. We were in disbelief about what was happening," Maria said.

Initially, Maria cared for Roger at their home at Kingsgrove - with the support of a consultant neurologist, RPA's respiratory physicians, a Palliative Care staff specialist and visits from Community Health nurses based at Canterbury Hospital.

Roger's condition gradually deteriorated and he has been admitted to the Concord Centre for Palliative Care four times in the past six months.

"They've been our saviour. Their empathy and compassion is beyond question," Maria said.

The Centre, based at Concord Hospital, provides care for patients in Sydney Local Health District who have a life-limiting illness and their families.

This week, the District is marking National Palliative Care Week which aims to raise awareness about the benefits of palliative care. This year, the theme is Palliative Care - it's more than you think.

Palliative care supports patients and their families by addressing their physical, emotional, spiritual and practical needs. The primary goal is to improve a patient's quality of life.

"The level of care at the Centre is amazing. Roger's seen his doctor, nurses, a social worker, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, speech therapist and a dietician," Maria said.

Roger has an Advanced Care Plan which outlines his wishes for end-of-life health care should he become too unwell to make his own decisions.

Roger has now chosen - after conversations with his family and the Centre's multidisciplinary team - to live in a nursing home with comprehensive 24/7 care, rather than return home.

Maria visits daily.

"I miss him madly when I'm at home. But, I know he's getting the care he needs. I know he's in the best place. The time we spend together is so precious," she said.

It's the couple's wish to return to Concord Centre for Palliative Care as the disease progresses and Roger requires end-of-life care.

"The care we've experienced there has been the best part of our journey," Maria said.