16 September 2022

Goodwin staff help caregivers talk about life's final, important moments with loved ones

| Katrina Condie
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Kate Carnell sitting with Goodwin staff at Goodwin Village Ainslie

Violet Initiative chair Kate Carnell (centre) has been working alongside Goodwin CEO Stephen Holmes, Goodwin executive manager clinical services Tamra MacLeod and Goodwin care and clinical services Home Care manager Joanne Latimer to deliver an end-of-life training program. Photo: Liv Cameron.

When a loved one is approaching the end of their life, we often need to have heart-breaking conversations to ensure they make the most of their time left, and can die with dignity.

The team at Goodwin Aged Care Service is taking steps to help family members and caregivers navigate those challenging final months, weeks and days.

Goodwin nurses, residential staff and community carers have completed training with the Violet Initiative to ensure they’re better resourced and equipped to have those difficult conversations around death, dying and end-of-life care.

Goodwin executive manager clinical health services Tamra MacLeod says more than 50 staff members have undergone training which has given them the confidence and willingness to raise the delicate issues with clients and their families, adding a personal element to what is often a very clinical palliative care process.

“Generally, across society, we don’t talk about death very well,” Tamra says.

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“The training has given our staff ‘permission’ to talk to our residents and home care clients about how they want to see out their final days, and the option to refer family members to the Violet guides for support.”

Tamra says Goodwin’s genuine commitment to providing a passionate and dignified end-of-life experience for its aged care residents has been enhanced through the partnership.

The volunteer Violet guides have lived experience caring for a loved one and are fully trained to provide free, unlimited support for staff and caregivers.

Violet Initiative chair Kate Carnell says with more than 60 per cent of all predictable deaths occurring in aged care, Goodwin is raising the bar when it comes to the wellbeing of its residents – and staff.

“From a staffing perspective it can be pretty stressful when a client is reaching the end of their life,” she says.

“It’s crucial for staff members to know how to bring their family and friends into that space in an open and empathetic manner, and to be able to start the conversation about what the person who is dying wants, and how to deliver that.

“Goodwin is a real stand-out performer in the aged care space in Canberra, because they’re really thinking about how they can improve that last stage of life for their residents.”

Tamra says the initiative provides staff, families and residents with an independent person they can talk to about whatever they want.

“The Violet guides are just beautiful,” she says.

“It’s great for our families to be able to talk to someone who has the time to listen – which can be a real challenge in a health care setting where nurses focus primarily on the clinical stuff.

“It’s such a personal service, and each carer has their own guide with the skills, expertise and dedicated time to support them through the entire end-of-life process.”

Tamra says the response from Goodwin staff and families has been very positive.

“People have been very grateful we’ve been able to offer that support through Violet, and that they didn’t leave it too late to have the important conversations with the rest of their family and loved ones,” she says.

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More than half of all predictable deaths in Australia have regretful outcomes – where things don’t go to plan, or there is no plan.

Kate says people are uncertain and unprepared for the last stage of life, for death and dying, resulting in many Australians missing the end-of-life experience they want or deserve.

“We all know we’re going to die, but bringing up the issue with your mum, your dad, or your partner who is in the final stage of their life can be hard,” she says.

“Having that conversation about what that person really wants, and how they would like to live out their last stage of life is so important.”

She says giving your loved one a voice in their last stage of life can be your greatest gift to them.

Goodwin Aged Care Service can refer home care clients, residential care residents and their family members to the Violet Initiative or clients can refer themselves for free, personal support.


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