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New Flinders resources help with grief, loss and final bereavement process

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When someone dies in residential aged care, families and friends experience grief and loss – and some of this grief may have started earlier when the decision to move into residential aged care was made.

With almost one-third of deaths occurring in residential aged care in South Australia, experts from Flinders University working with SA Health and GriefLink have produced a set of new resources to take family through this grief, loss and final bereavement process with their aged care service provider.

Flinders Professor Jennifer Tieman, director of the Research Centre for Palliative Care, Death and Dying (RePaDD), says the information aims to support families by outlining the stages of what is likely to happen over time from entry into aged care through to end of life.

“Taking the voices of people in residential aged care system, the content is shaped by evidence from Australian and international studies of residential aged care and the booklet lists a wide range of reputable Australian websites and services to get further help,” Tieman says at the start of National Palliative Care Week.

“The information will help at many levels, from the major changes and adjustments required for moving from the family home, to practical and financial considerations for daily activities and personal care needs in residential aged care.

“After people go through these major life changes, families have to face the realities of advances in ageing, disease and dementia, and finally the shock of the family member dying.

“Being older and being in aged care does not lessen the loss that families feel when a family member dies so we hope to demystify some of these natural processes with this major new initiative.”

The new Grief and Loss booklet, titled When someone dies in residential aged care: Grief and loss for families will be launched during National Palliative Care Week by the SA Department for Health and Wellbeing and SA Health with an online portal to be launched soon.

“We are so pleased to support this initiative through SA Health’s Palliative Care 2020 Grants Program, to improve access to and diversify quality palliative care services for South Australians,” Kate Swetenham, Nursing Director of Palliative Care Projects at SA Health, says.

To coincide with National Palliative Care Week, the RePaDD team at Flinders University have launched new online introduction for Palliative Care Aged Care Evidence for nurses.

The interactive modules cover 10 essential topics and will help aged care nurses to learn the fundamentals of palliative care, as well as prepare to support older persons at the end of life. The modules are designed for self-paced learning, are free to use, and come with supporting resources such as an online manual, forms, validated tools, and Practice Tip booklet/sheets.

RePaDD and the Flinders University Palliative and Supportive Services group is also working with Federal Government’s CareSearch and Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care to support end-of-life care among family carers, aged care workers and health professionals in hospitals – as well as supporting a national study on bereavement outcomes during COVID-19.

As well, a new End of Life Directions for Aged Care digital dashboard has now been launched by experts at the Flinders University research centre.

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