Leaders in residential palliative care

In July 2021, VMCH (Villa Maria Catholic Homes) opened O’Neill House, a specialised end-of-life care and respite home located in Prahran, Victoria. This is the first stand-alone service of its kind offered by VMCH. O’Neill House aims to provide a modern, luxurious, and homelike environment for those entering the last phase of their life and their families. Care is highly personalised and based on each resident’s needs and wishes, and the facility offers pastoral care, an open chapel for reflection and worship, and activities that bring connection and enjoyment. Visitors are encouraged and can stay overnight in the resident’s room or in a fully self-contained apartment.

Palliative Care Victoria estimates that 1 in 4 Victorians who die each year (approximately 10,000 people) do so without adequate access to palliative care. Additionally, two-thirds of Australians die between the ages of 75 and 95, usually of chronic or degenerative conditions that arise with ageing. Almost three-quarters of them will become aware they are dying and more than half of them will die in the hospital, despite preferring to die elsewhere.

VMCH recognised the need for a more holistic, personal and empowering approach to palliative care in the aged care industry. As a flagship organisation partnering with the End of Life Direction for Aged Care (ELDAC) initiative, VMCH set up new training practices to bring better palliative care services into aged care. O’Neill House was designed following extensive research and focuses on providing a physical environment that is relaxed and welcoming, well-lit, and designed to enable family and friends to stay overnight. The aim of O’Neill House is to take away the other burdens of caring, so there is more time for meaningful conversations and connections with family during this sacred time.

Since its opening, over 70 people have called O’Neill House home and VMCH has supported many of them and their families through the palliative journey. VMCH’s leadership role in residential palliative care has greatly benefitted staff, residents and their families and has allowed VMCH to become leaders and award winners in this field. The aim is to ease the burden on people and their families and reduce the need for emergency department presentations and deaths during transfers to and from services.

In 2022, VMCH won the Future of Ageing Awards Palliative Care Category Award, for their specialist end-of-life care and respite home, O’Neill House in Prahran, Victoria.  Timed to coincide with Palliative Care Week 2023, Re Aged Care spoke with the VMCH CEO Sonya Smart about O’Neill House, the training to staff and the level of palliative support given to residents.

Credit: Future of Ageing Awards, Inside Ageing

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