Continuing Care co-ordinator works to make end-of-life journey a little easier

Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - 2:19pm

Marie-Claire Chartrand is one of Capital Health’s 67 Continuing Care coordinators. A registered social worker, she works in the community with Palliative Care clients who are nearing the end of their life. She is the link between the people and the services they need to die with dignity and comfort, making the journey a little easier on them and their families.

“It’s my job to figure out how to make that journey as easy as possible,” she says. “You have to balance putting in place the services they need, with giving them the autonomy to make their own decisions and enabling them to live with dignity.”

Marie-Claire has helped a lot of families in her 22 years of community work, making an average of five home visits per week to see clients and assess their needs for care.

A home visit gives her a real picture of how a client is living and how their family is coping. Marie-Claire helps them plan for when their health declines further and their care needs increase. She coordinates in-home nursing care, meal preparation, housekeeping, and personal care services, arranges equipment loans including home oxygen, wheelchairs and hospital beds, and secures respite for families and accommodation in a long-term care home. She helps them plan where they’d like to die, and supports the family in providing the end of life care where their loved one wants to be.

Marie-Claire says it takes teamwork to meet a client’s needs, pointing out that she is just one person in an interdisciplinary team - the Capital Health Integrated Palliative Care Services, which includes RNs, Physicians, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists and volunteers.

When asked what her favourite part of the job is, Marie-Claire responds, “That I’m being helpful. That I’m making a difference in peoples’ lives. Clients and families have told me they had no idea all of this help was available,” she continues, “so, I’d like people to know this care is available.”

Back at the office, letters of thanks from families flank her desk. One from the pile reads:

“Dear Marie-Claire,
You are the human face of a very sensitive and compassionate program to help families cope with a final journey. You were always there to give us the information we needed and you understood our mom’s insecurities and needs better than anyone else we dealt with. This sad journey was made easier with the help you gave us.”