Imagine being 35 years old and having to bring an oxygen tank to a movie with your friends.
Lasith never let what others thought about him stop him from enjoying life and achieving what he wanted. But by the time he turned 38, he needed oxygen constantly, even while resting.
Trapped at home by his illness, Lasith struggled with extreme loneliness.
“It seems to me like the whole world’s busy. My good friends care a lot but they don’t realize I’m alone and sometimes very lonely.”
His younger brother, Dr. Dinesh Witharana, a family physician working in palliative care and father of two young children, says:
“Often we underestimate the value that companionship can play, when we are inundated with all of life’s other responsibilities and pressures.”
The many times Lasith was admitted to hospital took its toll on his family. Dinesh became exhausted by the roller coaster ride of seeing his brother on the brink of death, and from saying his final goodbyes each time they saw each other.
“As a doctor, I struggled to see my brother fall into a deep depression from his isolation, to the point where he began requesting to stop all his life-saving therapies.”
Knowing that a few of his patients living with a terminal illness had found relief from their isolation through Pilgrims Hospice Society, Dinesh recommended the Hospice Home Visiting Program to his brother.
Through this program, Lasith was carefully matched with a specially trained volunteer, Michelle, to care for his emotional, social and spiritual health, as well as support his family.
Lasith describes Michelle as a treasure and a gem.
“The conversation is interesting – and funny. It’s so enjoyable just to chat or play a board game – and when I have a rant, she listens. This is when I wake up, this is when I live.”
It means so much to Lasith that Michelle sees him because she wants to, not because it’s her job. If there were a cost to these visits, Dinesh is certain his brother would have declined them.
For the family, Michelle’s weekly visits have taken a load off their shoulders.
“I have noticed that Lasith has enjoyed having someone to share his hopes, dreams, worries, and fears with. He does not express the deep loneliness as he once did. For someone as social as my brother, that has improved his energy and spirits immensely”
It takes a tremendous amount of resources and support to care for a patient with a palliative diagnosis at home.
As a physician, Dinesh recognizes our medical system suffers from a lack of resources to support the patient as a whole – treating a disease, while the patient’s psychosocial needs are left unattended. The caregivers, usually the family members, are often left unsupported.
“Pilgrims Hospice Society is one of the few organizations that uses its funding to directly improve the lives of patients with a palliative diagnosis and their families. That is rare. By supporting Pilgrims Hospice, you can be reassured that your money is going directly to families in need.”
Will you be part of this much-needed support?
With your help, these services are offered free of charge, removing barriers to accessing help at a difficult and vulnerable time.
Please make a gift now. Your generosity will truly help the growing numbers in our community, like Lasith, needing someone to share their hopes, dreams, worries and fears with as they near the end of life.