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Dying with dignity: How Guelph-Wellington Paramedic Service's palliative care is helping families

Victor Tucciarone’s wish to never return to a hospital was granted when Guelph-Wellington paramedics offered him the option to die with dignity at home
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Victor Tucciarone with his family.

When Victor Tucciarone’s health took a turn for the worse, and with a wish to never return to the hospital, his family turned to the Guelph-Wellington Paramedic Services (GWPS) palliative care pilot project to ease him into the final stages of his life.

“He was able to be in his own home with support services that would attend to him on a schedule and on-call basis. We, as a family, were able to adhere to dad’s wishes and be by his side throughout,” said Vinnie Griese, speaking of her late father.

The pilot project, which started in October and runs until March, offers at-home palliative care in Guelph and Wellington County for patients registered with the palliative team of Home and Community Care.

The project provides care for patients at their end-of-life stage while increasing the support for families and respecting the patient’s wishes.

“We had a positive experience with the palliative care service. We definitely benefited from this program. My niece learned about the program in the news and passed along the information to her mother,” said Griese. “We inquired about it to our father’s oncologist, Dr. Robinson. She explained the newly enacted program. She said she had just completed the training of the paramedics for patients desiring alternative care options."  

When it comes to the program, there are many supportive home care services with the highly trained paramedics only one of the important part of the program.

"I would tell the paramedics thank you for your expertise and exceptional caring ways," said Griese. Being part of this program will challenge your natural instincts. You’ll want to do everything in your power to sustain life. Just keep in mind that you will continue to apply all your knowledge and training in order to stabilize and comfort the patient. The difference is now you have choices on how to proceed based on the patient’s wishes.”

Delivered in partnership with Hamilton Health Sciences, Centre for Paramedic Education and Research, Home and Community Care Palliative Care support teams and Hospice Wellington, Guelph-Wellington paramedics have been specially trained to administer medications.

In speaking earlier with GuelphToday on the program coming to the community, Leanne Swantko, deputy chief Guelph-Wellington Paramedic Services said the goal of this pilot project is to respect the wishes of the family and the patient, and if their wish was to die with dignity at home with loved ones the Guelph-Wellington Paramedic Services are able to support that wish rather than transporting the patient to the hospital.

All Guelph-Wellington paramedics are trained for the program, which is currently 170 staff.

Griese said to people considering this program: “This program is not about giving up. We witnessed my father fight to his last breath. It was difficult, but we were also in awe of his determination. People that become part of this program are in an extraordinarily compromising health circumstance. The decision to become part of this program is a difficult choice. It’s one that is made with much consideration and family discussion."

Every paramedic involved with the program was required to take a six-hour online course, before having six hours face-to-face with a palliative care physician, and has been specially trained in the administering of drugs at the end-of-life stages.

"I don’t know that anything can help with my father's passing," said Griese. "Right now the loss is still too new. I believe any decision we make involving the passing of a loved one will always cause second-guessing and reflection. I do believe that in time I will look back and know that we made the best choice for our dad because we honoured his wishes and he went so peacefully. In his words 'that’s life"

On behalf of the family, another daughter, Teresa Henry would like to acknowledge the caring support of all PSW's and nursing staff that provided essential home care, the paramedics that attended to our father’s home, the nurses and all staff at Guelph Wellington Hospice. You are all truly angels. Thank you.


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Daniel Caudle

About the Author: Daniel Caudle

Daniel Caudle is a journalist who covers Guelph and area
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