Hand-written letters filled with emotion but not regret let Helen Sanford know she’s making a difference.
The registered nurse has specialised in palliative care for more than 12 years – helping dying people and their families.
Those families often write to her as they work through the bereavement process, thanking her for caring for their loved one.
Now the Christchurch earthquake refugee is launching a new private nursing service in the Wakatipu.
“I think there is an acute need in the basin,” Sanford says.
“Especially for an out-of-hours specialist nurse to be able to go into homes and help people.”
Sanford says GPs refer Queenstown patients to Hospice Southland but there is no specialist palliative care nurse for the basin, so the service is provided by the district nurse seven days a week but within office hours.
“What I’m offering is a choice, so you can have the district nurse, of course, or myself on a private basis,” she says.
“Out of hours means I’m at the end of the phone and able to go out to people’s homes at two o’clock in the morning or whatever.”
Sanford says once the decision is made to care for someone at home with a life-limiting illness, such as terminal cancer or dementia, she’ll work with both the patient and family to manage the process.
That includes everything from practical education on lifting techniques and sourcing equipment to medication management and counselling.
“Our approach is holistic so you’re not just working with the patient; you’re working with their family.
“In my mind, they’re as important as the patient.”
The Wakatipu Palliative Care Private Nursing Service launches on September 8 at Disability Resource Centre, Gorge Rd retail centre.