The horizon of the palliative network in Rendsburg – life to the end | NDR.de – News

Status: 23.10.2021 06:00

Claudia’s husband Jürgens died of severe cancer in June. The Horizon Palliative Care Network has supported the family through difficult times.

Janina Harder

Claudia Jürgens sits with the children at a table in her apartment in Rendsburg. Together they look at photos of happier days. Four months have passed since her husband Thorsten died at the age of 57. Together, the family looks back at how things have been since then. “At first it always feels like he’s on vacation and he’ll be right back at the door. It’s so final, ”says Claudia Jürgens’s mother. In the case of Colin’s 25-year-old son, the grief over his father’s death “flares up every now and then when you hear music that he once heard.” He comforts his little sister Casey as she fights back tears.

Diagnosis: end stage liver cancer and bile duct cancer

It all started in the summer of 2020 when Thorsten Jürgens felt weak, thinner and less resilient. The doctor diagnosed water retention, and Thorsten Jürgens was immediately hospitalized. “The young doctor looked at us and then said we were going to have a very difficult time,” recalls the Rendsburg resident. This was bad news for Claudia Jürgens and her husband: the diagnosis is liver cancer and bile duct cancer in the final stages. “We were both shocked, my husband of course even more so. Sometimes we talked about it all night long to process it and give each other hope that things would turn out differently, ”recalls Claudia Jürgens. Almost at the same time as the diagnosis, Thorsten Jürgens also received another message: he will be a grandfather for the first time. He really wanted to meet his grandson.

family initially on their own

Doctors wanted to extend his life with chemotherapy. However, Thorsten Jürgens took the treatment poorly – he decided to stop chemotherapy after six months. Thorsten Jürgens filmed himself in March this year and talked about this difficult time. Video recordings are available for the NDR and may be used in consultation with the family. Thorsten Jürgens then said: “After the second chemotherapy, I noticed my legs and feet were swollen and we really didn’t know what to do anymore.” What’s next?

“Then you sit there – and that decision also means something,” says Claudia Jürgens. “It’s certain death and I felt incredibly lonely.” Abandoned by doctors, by the clinic. Completely alone, this is how the family describes the next time. For Claudia Jürgens, a situation that was difficult to deal with. Confronting my own fears and regrets, and at the same time taking over all care and organizing everything around her – it was not easy. Especially when a close relative also suffers a lot from an incurable disease. She then searched the Internet and came across the Rendsburg palliative care network.

Palliative medicine not very much present in consciousness


Psycho-oncologists often look after patients in hospital and talk to them about the disease and its consequences.

Ute Lieske, Managing Director of the Horizon Palliative Care Network, recalls; “Ms Jürgens sent an e-mail to our palliative care network and asked for help. She described her situation and asked: Who is actually responsible? Are we in the right place? These are the most common questions. Lieske suspects that the word “soothing” in people’s minds is associated only with illness shortly before the end of life.

However, palliative care generally means that curative therapy is no longer possible and life expectancy is limited. Seriously ill and dying people have the right to palliative care. “Palliative medicine aims to alleviate the effects of the disease when there is no longer any chance of recovery,” explains Lieske. “We’re there for the quality of life. And sometimes we can spend the whole year with the patient.”

Ute Lieske is very annoyed that the Jürgen family has not been informed about the possibilities for support, but this is “unfortunately common”, she says. All legally insured victims are entitled to outpatient palliative care. The costs are covered by the health insurance company. Special feature: In addition to the sick, the net is also available to their relatives. And patients don’t have to spend their final days in a hospital where they could only have a few visitors since the coronation pandemic.

Needs-based palliative network support

At that time, Ute Lieske was organizing help with the needs of the Jürgens family: for a period of six months, the Jürgens family could contact a volunteer at any time. He had doctors and nurses who stood by Thorsten Jürgens constantly. The family was free to decide how often. If Thorsten Jürgens was better, they came twice a week, if he was in pain or there were complications, he was visited every day. In addition, there was a psychologist with whom the family could talk over and over again about goodbye and death.

“The psychoncologist was especially important to us so that we could even process the whole thing – so that we would know how to handle the situation,” says Claudia Jürgens. There was a competent contact person in every area, even for organizational matters and applications to the health insurance fund. Nurses also installed an emergency room in the family home so that the palliative doctor and nursing staff could immediately access the necessary emergency medications.

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Concentrate on the basics instead of being overwhelmed

Especially in the last days of Thorsten Jürgen’s life, the nurses and psycho-oncologist were a stone in the sea. His wife was very concerned that their 21-29-year-old children would survive unscathed when they saw their father die. “The psychoncologist convinced me that it was the right decision, that my husband died at home – and that we were all there in the last few hours because we can better process our loss,” says Claudia Jürgens. On the other hand, in the hospital, he may have died alone – or with just one relative by his side – due to short visiting hours and strict crown guidelines.

A moment to say goodbye

Until one morning in June, the terrifying and indisputable moment. The sun was shining through the window of an apartment in Rendsburg. All the kids were there. Thorsten Jürgens was also able to meet his grandson a few months before his death. “We turned on his favorite music and sat down with him, our older brother was there too,” says his daughter Casey. The nursing service came back and gave Thorsten Jürgens a sedative.

It was important for the family to make his last hours as comfortable as possible. “Since the palliative care network was there with all its helpers in the background, it gave us such a sense of security that we also felt we could now concentrate on the basics. And we could, may sound strange, but we were able to consciously enjoy the moment, ”says Claudia Jürgens, referring to the moment her husband Thorsten died, just ten months after being diagnosed with cancer.

Automatically inform affected people about help options

Colin’s son says the family said goodbye that day calmly and very consciously. “We didn’t answer the phone, didn’t tell anyone at first, but we went to the beach in Eckernförde to go for a walk together and let what we experienced affect the family,” he says.

Everyone is sure that they could say goodbye with dignity, mainly thanks to the support of the palliative care network. They would like clinics and general practitioners to automatically refer affected people to the palliative care network – so that it is not left to chance that the seriously ill and their relatives will feel that they are in good hands during their last journey together.

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