End of life care focus

VALUABLE ADDITION: In Home Hospice Service chairperson Maureen Klintberg outside the planned headquarters at Mount Gambier's 10 Bay Road complex.

VOLUNTEERS are being sought to help deliver an In Home Hospice Care (IHHC) service in Mount Gambier, supporting residents to spend their end-of-life days at home.

The new Mount Gambier service aims to fill identified gaps in existing services, with in-home care provided by specially trained volunteers to enable terminally ill people, who would prefer to die at home, the option of compassionate, person and family-centred care in their home setting.

The service will be the key focus of a community forum on March 1 at Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre, which will feature guest speakers from the Warnnambool and District Community Hospice (WDCH) which has been operational since 2016 and has been used as a model for the Mount Gambier program.

IHHC chairperson Maureen Klintberg said while research showed 70pc of terminally ill people would prefer to spend their end-of-life days at home, it was understood many died in hospital for social reasons and not medical.

“The need for Hospice care and an extension of the current local Palliative care service (offered Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm) to provide support 24 hours a day, seven days a week has been expressed for some time within the community,” Ms Klintberg said.

“Although there has been no palliative care trained volunteers in Mount Gambier for quite a while, training of volunteers through Palliative Care SA has continued in the metropolitan areas of Adelaide and we are working collaboratively with Palliative Care SA and WDCH to establish our own team of locally trained volunteers.”

Under the scheme, volunteers do not offer medical care or advice, instead they focus on providing practical and emotional assistance to the dying person, family and carer.

“People often confuse hospice (end-of-life care) and palliative care. In fact, hospice care includes palliative care within it,” Ms Klintberg said.

“Palliative care is treatment, care and support for people living with a life-limiting illness, meaning an illness that cannot be cured and that they are likely to die from.

“Care and treatment are provided to help people live their life as fully and as comfortably as possible.”

Hospice (end-of-life care) is provided to people who generally are expected to have less than six months to live and when curative treatment is no longer an option.

Palliative and end-of-life care is for people of any age and can involve not only doctors and nurses, but also family members, friends, clergy, counsellors, social workers and volunteers who

provide compassionate, holistic care to the patient and their supportive network.

The IHHC will work in collaboration with local GP’s, Palliative care team members and allied health services.

“A premises is now being secured for the IHHC service to operate from, job positions for a Hospice manager and volunteer administrator/coordinator are currently being advertised, and training for the first group of volunteers is planned to commence the middle of March,” Ms Klintberg said.

“We would be delighted to hear from members of the community who are interested in becoming a volunteer.

“No specific skills are required, just a desire to assist and help those in need as community support is vital to ensuring the success and sustainability of the home-hospice service.”

The free community forum will be held Monday, March 1 from 7pm at Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre.

Key speakers include WDCH patron and former south-west Victoria palliative care director Dr Eric Fairbank and Merran Koren, a WDHC volunteer and a former Mount Gambier resident.

The WDCH team will also be present at a separate information session for people interested in becoming a trained volunteer on March 2 from 1pm at the Mount Gambier Community RSL.

The establishment of the Mount Gambier In Home Hospice Care service was made possible by funding through the SA Government Palliative Care 2020 Grants Program and is supported by the Mount Gambier Private Hospital.