Last Days program first of its kind to boost understanding about death and dying
People with family members or friends nearing end-of-life will learn practical skills and knowledge to improve their death literacy under a new program being launched by HammondCare.
The Last Days program is the first in-person, community-focussed course to provide practical and effective education to improve knowledge and confidence for those caring for someone in their last days, weeks, or months of life.
Professionals with experience in palliative care will offer support and information in workshops on death and dying aiming to better prepare and equip program participants for what is ahead. The course will also be available on line.
Developed by innovative health and aged care provider HammondCare, the Last Days program builds on a 2021 pilot where 100 per cent of the participants agreed the training had increased their awareness and understanding about what to expect when someone is dying and would recommend to others.
The program will launch in Northern Sydney in March through a collaboration with the Sydney North Primary Health Network, with more in person Sydney-based workshops and online sessions over the next few months.
HammondCare would like to partner with health, community and aged care organisations who might want to deliver the program to people they support.
HammondCare General Manager Health and Hospitals Andrew Montague said the Last Days program was part of HammondCare’ s long-term palliative care strategy to ensure more people have choice and opportunity to live their lives to the very end with peace and dignity.
He said about 160,000 people die in Australia each year – and often carers, family members and friends are not prepared for what may be confronting at end of life.
“There is a need to help those who care for people at end of life to equip them to navigate their journey,” Dr Montague said.
“Good palliative care is a partnership between the person, health professionals and families and carers to maximise quality of life, care planning, facilitating end-of-life conversations and management of symptoms."
Objectives of the program include enabling early communication and decision making about end-of-life preferences as well as equipping families and community-based carers to be better prepared about what to expect during the dying process from a physical and symptom management perspective.
There will be information about practical support resources and services available after the program to help cope with emotions and grief during the last phase of life and bereavement after death.
HammondCare Clinical Nurse palliative care specialist Rachael Zielinski is one of the experts who developed and will present some of the programs.
“Death and dying is the elephant in the room – and one of the last taboos,” she said. “We hope the program will provide a place to reflect and discuss death and dying, breaking down notions that preparing for end of life is technical, private and hidden.
“It will also seek to encourage more openness in making and documenting end-of-life choices.”
Melanie Gould, who participated in the 2021 pilot, highly recommended the program.
“The session really brings home what awaits during the final days of life of someone you care for,” she said.
Ms Gould, whose 49-year-old friend died recently after a lengthy illness, said there was practical tools and advice on available resources to assist at various steps of the palliative care process.
For more information and to register for the initial free Last Days Workshops, please visit our website.