What would be your last wish?
Would you want to feel the wind on your face while watching the waves crash onto the beach; watch the birds soar above the hills; or the sunlight shining through the trees and shimmering on the river?
Would you prefer to say goodbye to the family pet; attend your daughter’s wedding; or say hello to your sibling or new grandchild?
Have one last day at home with mum and dad, visit the art gallery, zoo or rugby; or visit your husband’s grave one last time?
Or would you rather chose to spend the afternoon shopping with your sister, have afternoon tea with your mum, visit a classic car show or say goodbye to your horse?
For this terminally ill grandmother, her wish – recently granted by Stichting Ambulance Wens in the Netherlands – was to visit and hold her new grandchild in Sweden.
Great care is about improving the quality of life for patients – physically, mentally and spiritually. Identifying and fulfilling a last wish can help both the patient and their loved ones. Quite often it is the smallest or simplest wish, for example visiting home or memorable location, that means the most.
Helping to identify a final wish, or create a bucket list, for a terminally ill patient can help identify where the patient’s priorities lie so they can alter their care to fit their needs or wants. Palliative care gives people choice and control over the way their care is planned and delivered, based on ‘what matters’ to them and their individual strengths and needs. One terminally ill patient described her care as:
“Palliative care has not only looked at my illness, but at my life, quality of life and experiences, seen me as a unique individual and view me as a whole person, not a sum of parts made up of various medical specialities. They see the ‘big picture’, not just my internal bodily systems but both my internal and external life, including my support network, my social needs and my wishes, goals and aspirations for my life. They have managed my symptoms to maximum efficacy, facilitated my desired quality of life, empowered me to chase my dreams and goals and supported my family. However, it goes deeper than that. I truly believe palliative care is the reason I have exceeded my prognosis, it is the reason I am still here, and research does show that palliative care can actually extend life.”
During a patient’s final months, weeks or days, Ambulance Wish Western Australia wants to bring them joy and comfort through visiting a familiar place that reignites precious memories, or fulfilment of something special on their bucket list that can give them a sense of achievement and excitement. Fulfilling a final wish is not just about the person living with a terminal illness. It provides an opportunity for their family members, friends and loved ones to share the experience with them to create lasting memories.