Carer Story: Jenk Akyalcin

Carer Story: Jenk Akyalcin

In October 2020 Erika Akyalcin was referred to PCSE from her GP after receiving a terminal diagnosis. At 57 years old she and her husband Jenk decided they wanted to stay together in their family home, rather than living out her remaining time in hospital. The support of our specialist team of nurses, social workers, counsellors and occupational therapists enabled Erika to manage her symptoms and focus on living well. They also provided support to her husband Jenk and their two children, Vanessa and Tayne.

‘The nurses became almost like part of the family in a way and were very mindful of Erika’s circumstance, and treated her with dignity and respect, not just from a medical point of view but treating her like a human being. It was not just nursing support, it was also guidance, counselling and even just friendly conversations that helped our family through the process.’

Jenk and his children had no previous experience in a caring role, so navigating this time was challenging and filled with uncertainty. Fortunately, the accessibility of our team helped to alleviate some of their worries as our specialist staff were available for support 24/7.

‘I knew I could rely on the the nurses or even the receptionist. I could phone late at night and it just gave me a degree of comfort where I thought they’re with me here, I can do this. I did phone at all sorts of crazy hours. There were a couple of occasions where I was unsure about medication dosages and I was able to call and check which was fantastic. It was knowing that it’s not just a visit, it’s a whole organisation backing you up, that made a big difference.’

The importance of our integrated team model was further emphasised by their family who found the different pillars of support paramount to maintaining a sense of normalcy and routine.

‘It was outstanding because we could continue to go about our day, the visits felt like someone we’d known for many years dropping by. That sort of support it’s hard to describe, but the team came out and blended into our family. They weren’t just there for the clinical side.


The team saw beyond their own roles and realised that there are others there at PCSE that may have a role to play in our family. Whether it’s for counselling, bereavement support or the volunteer program. Everyone in the organisation knows what’s going on and is talking about that so they can help you in different ways.’

Jenk is now a part of our Bereavement Support Program that is available for families for up to 13 months after the death of a loved one. We are grateful for his, and his families, willingness to share their story and experience with PCSE.

Meet our Occupational Therapists: Natalee Gilmour

Meet our Occupational Therapists: Natalee Gilmour

Natalee Gilmour completed her Allied health assistant certificate at Holmesglen in 2018, after moving From Broken Hill, NSW. She has worked at peninsula health as an allied health assistant in rehab before starting her role at Palliative Care South East. Natalee is currently studying a double degree in Health Sciences and Physiotherapy at La Trobe University. Natalee has a strong interest in weightlifting and is keen for gyms to open back up, she is also passionate about travelling and photography.

Natalee was looked at for a professional hockey position before rupturing her ACL which sparked her interest in Physiotherapy. As an allied health assistant studying physiotherapy and working at PSCE, Natalee has a keen eye for the way people walk and assessing their safety, (even if not asked). She can often spot walking or fall concerns from clients within a few steps. Natalee finds it very rewarding when clients find the information from her visits have helped them and improved their functional capacity, giving them optimum carer and client safety.

Meet our Occupational Therapists: Dhwani Parikh

Meet our Occupational Therapists: Dhwani Parikh

Dhwani Parikh completed her Bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy from India in 2004 and has been working as a registered Occupational Therapist since she migrated to Australia to be with her husband. Dhwani has completed her specialist post graduation study in Palliative Care from Melbourne University in 2018 and is an accredited OT driver assessor. Dhwani has a strong interest in Indian classical dancing, travelling and exploring various forms of cuisines.

As a specialist OT working in Palliative Care for over six years, Dhwani plays an important role within the clinical care team at Palliative Care South East by identifying life roles and activities (“occupations”) that are meaningful to clients, addressing barriers to performing these activities, enabling people with a life-limiting illness to continue performing valued and essential everyday living activities and optimising quality of life and comfort; while acknowledging the changing needs due to deterioration and pending death. Dhwani finds it is extremely rewarding and meaningful when she is able to support client’s and their families within this unique and specialised occupational therapy role and is committed to continuing to support people during challenging times.

Volunteer Memorabilia Program

Volunteer Memorabilia Program

PCSE’s Memorabilia Program specialises in making memorabilia items from the clothing of a loved one by one of our talented and skilled volunteers. The thought of having to let go of items such as clothing can sometimes be difficult and painful, but thanks to the recently awarded Stockland CARE Grant PCSE’s memorabilia program can provide a free of charge service to create a memorabilia item that will evoke cherished memories and hold extra special meaning for families involved in our service. Each piece of clothing telling a story unique to the owner.
After recently losing her Father-in-Law, Cara was excited to learn she could utilise the Memorabilia Program to create memorabilia items from his clothes for her family. From her consultation with a memorabilia volunteer and providing the clothes she would like to use, Cara was thrilled and overjoyed to receive her Teddies.
“It just feels so good to have something we can hold onto and cuddle, especially for my boys, and I can’t wait to see my husband’s reaction when he sees them.”
To find out more or to become a memorabilia volunteer for this program contact PCSE on 03 59911300 or click here
Volunteer Snapshot: Hans Rutgrink

Volunteer Snapshot: Hans Rutgrink

Hans became a PCSE volunteer after finishing his working career and seeing an advertisement in the local library for a volunteer position. He thought he would be well suited to sign up and assist those with a life-limiting illness. He has now been a part of our program for over nine years, coming to love the positive outlook of clients and the privilege of sharing their stories during their end stages of life.

When asked to reflect on his experience as a volunteer Hans describes his role as a very rewarding use of time and resources, feeling incredibly humbled by the gratitude of the families he supports.

One of his most memorable moments was when the family of a client asked him to be a part of the memorial service and included a photo of him followed by the caption ‘Hans, a good friend of Donald’.

We are so grateful for the role Hans plays in providing our carers and clients with companionship and support. Without his dedication and time, we would not be able to offer company to those who may need some additional care as they navigate a challenging time.

If you would like to be involved in our volunteer program to help others with a life-limiting illness in our community please click here or call PCSE’s reception on 03 5991 1300. Alternatively, you can support our service by making a donation.


Volunteer Snapshot: Meet Josie Mastroianni

Volunteer Snapshot: Meet Josie Mastroianni

Josie has volunteered with Palliative Care South East (PCSE) for the past five years, making an incredibly valuable contribution to our service. She initially joined the program after witnessing her friend volunteer with PCSE and seeing first-hand how rewarding and satisfying the position was. This, in combination with her passion and motivation to give back to our community, led to Josie joining our team.

Over the past five years, she has helped support a range of carers and clients in a companionship role. When reflecting on her time as a volunteer Josie describes a great feeling of accomplishment knowing she has made someone smile and brought happiness to people’s lives, especially to those who have limited visitors.
She finds that during her volunteering experience it has often been the smaller things that provide the greatest reward. One of her fondest memories is of her very first client.

“I was asked to sit by his bed (as he was at his end-stage of life) whilst his wife needed to run some errands. Boy, did he have a story or two to tell. He so much enjoyed and was proud of what he achieved in his working career, but he was also quick to tell you to leave the room when he wanted to be on his own”.

When asked if she would recommend volunteering with PCSE she is quick to highlight the diversity and flexibility of our program.

“If I could say something to anyone thinking of volunteering, anyone with some spare time, perhaps once a fortnight or even once a month, and you are a caring, motivated, friendly and sensitive to the needs of others, why not join? We are an incredibly diverse group, with a range of ages, identities, skills and personal attributes that complement what PCSE is out to achieve”.

We are so lucky to have Josie as part of our team and thank her for her incredible contribution to our service. Without the enthusiasm of volunteers like her we would struggle to continue providing the highest standard of holistic care to our community.

If you would like to learn more about PCSE’s volunteering program please click here. Alternatively, you can support our service by making a donation to help people with a life-limiting illness to live well.

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