End-of-life plans shunned by many

Nanjing Night Net

IN DENIAL: Nicole Schimanski, who nursed her husband, Michael, for 16 months after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Picture Dean Osland Michael Schimanski 

NICOLE Schimanski and her husband, Michael, had been married just two years when they were given the devastating news he had terminal cancer.

Michael, then 37, came home from working in a mine in Chile with jaundice and within two days was diagnosed with stage-four pancreatic cancer.

For the caring and generous stepfather of two, it was a revelation he never came to terms with, not even on his death bed.

“He refused to believe he was going to die,” Mrs Schimanski said.

“There was so much denial in the house and no one would talk to him about it.”

Wife Nicole, of Belmont, was a full-time carer for her husband for 16 months.

She wished the couple had a frank conversation about end-of-life plans when he was first diagnosed.

As Michael’s condition began to deteriorate, his pain management and mental state followed and it always fell to Mrs Schimanski to make tough decisions.

“There were times when he could have passed away but we kept him from going because we felt it was what he wanted,” she said.

“He just didn’t want to talk about it. He didn’t want palliative care involved.”

Despite her husband’s denial, eventually Nicole reached out to palliative care services for help.

They provided support, advice and equipment, ranging from shower aids to a hospital bed.

That is why, five years after Michael’s death, Mrs Schimanski is now working with palliative care services.

She has been speaking about her experience this week for Palliative Care Week.

A Palliative Care Australia survey, released this week, found half the people had not discussed end-of-life care with loved ones.

The survey of 1000 people who recently lost a loved one, found only 15 per cent had a plan for their final weeks.

Mrs Schimanski said if she and her husband had a difficult conversation, it might have resulted in more positive experiences during his remaining time.

“In a massive crisis, you don’t always make decisions that are the best ones,” she said. “If you can make a plan before the crisis hits, they’re going to be better.”

She would like to see more funds for palliative care and home nursing because carers relieved the burden on the health system.

Palliative Care NSW 92062094