Families, who would want to honour a parent’s request to not die in hospital, encounter obstacles that can defeat even accomplished health professionals.
Autumns’ Grace spans a ten-month period as the Campbell family comes to terms with the father’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. The adult children (two nurses, veterinarian, and teacher) confront a health care system they thought they knew, and familial relationships that they had avoided for decades. Generational pulls and career conflicts challenge the siblings as they support their parents, conduct their own family and professional lives, and are forced to face critical situations and decisions together.
Max, the father and a veterinarian, struggles with his diagnosis which he deems is unfair to a man who has consciously lived a healthy life-style. As he encounters the hospital and community health care systems he notes that he has treated his animal patients, and their owners, with more respect and compassion than several health professionals seem willing or able to provide. Marj, his wife of almost fifty years, reacts differently. She is terrified of a future on her own. Her anxiety manifests as a steely anger with her children and determined resistance to Max’s wishes to die at home.
Autumn’s Grace documents a family’s love as its members make their way through the experience of a cancer diagnosis, treatment, palliative care, and death. They muddle through with varying doses of tenacity, courage, humour and hope…always hope.
An important criticism of the health care system, Autumn’s Grace is a powerful commentary on the need for well-organized and well-funded palliative care in private homes and in residential hospices. Autumn’s Grace a gift to people who would like to be prepared as they help fulfill the final wishes of a family member or friend. It’s also an excellent case study for students enrolled in health sciences.