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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Resources are at hand to help you deal with the death of a cherished elder in aged care

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During this Palliative Care Week, it is important for workers to check in with themselves and ask how they are coping with the reality of death in aged care?

Granted, it’s often a distressing topic, but some of the country’s leading aged care researchers from Flinders University have been working hard to develop resources to help.

End of Life Directions for Aged Care (ELDAC) is a national specialist palliative care and advance care planning advisory service.

After extensive consultation with the aged care workforce, an online ‘Self-Care Room’ has been added to the ELDAC website to support workers grieving the loss of cherished elders in their care.

Professor Jennifer Tieman, a Matthew Flinders Fellow inaugural director of the Research Centre in Palliative Care, Death and Dying at Flinders University, tells Aged Care News that these resources were developed to provide some much needed care to emotionally fatigued workers.

“We wanted to acknowledge that actually, in aged care, dying does occur … so that people were aware that it is OK to feel sad, that someone who you cared for, with whom you had a relationship over time, has died, and you know that it’s OK to say that things are affecting you.

“It’s about recognising their role, that their care was important, and that they may need to take a moment for themselves to reorient or to take time to just go outside to position themselves.

“We want carers to be compassionate and to continue being compassionate— and to do that we have to support them.”

Professor Jennifer Tieman, a Flinders University palliative care expert, says it is normal for workers to grieve the loss of residents in their care.

The ELDAC Self-Care Room is a hub of evidence-based resources for dealing with grief, cultivated by Flinders academics.

“It is about focusing and saying, ‘I need to take care of myself’: physically, emotionally, maintaining your social relationships,” Tieman says.

We wanted to acknowledge that actually, in aged care, dying does occur … so that people were aware that it is OK to feel sad, that someone who you cared for, with whom you had a relationship over time, has died, and you know that it’s OK to say that things are affecting you.

Flinders University’s, Professor Jennifer Tieman

“The self-care room has a smorgasbord of resources and quotes from the workforce as they were talking around how they felt, what made a difference, what their organisation did.

“For example, ‘we work in an industry where we’re here to care for others and often forget to take care of ourselves’ was a comment that was commonly made.”

One of the site’s resources, ‘grab and grow’, was developed out of this recurring statement.

It includes a range of activities that are designed to help workers recharge after their own emotionally batteries have been drained by the demands of their work.

“We talk about filling up the jar,” Tieman explains.

“As you work with people, you take things out and you give them to others, but you also need to fill up your own jar.

“And that happens both with what you do personally, but also with what other resources — so the workplace, your colleagues, your friends — also contribute.

“Because this is not solo work, this is work that often occurs within the organisation.”

Tieman says that, ultimately, ensuring workers are acknowledged and supported will translate to greater dignity and peace experienced by elders in their final stage of life.

“With good, compassionate care, the older person is taken care of, their needs are met, and … that person is cared for and acknowledged as the person that they are right until their death.

“In providing that care, you’re also supporting the family and the community… There is value in that and it is an important thing to do —  and sometimes I think we don’t always acknowledge that.”

ELDAC and self-care for aged care workers

Funded by the Australian Government, ELDAC is a national specialist palliative care and advance care planning advisory service.

The service comprises a comprehensive website with resources to equip care providers with skills and information to help older Australians receive high-quality end of life care.

Development of the Self-Care Room started with a literature review and an environmental scan, but the final product was co-designed and co-produced with care-workers across the country.

ELDAC is also currently running a campaign called My Care Matters to highlight the importance of death being acknowledged as natural and an approachable topic, with resources available to support these discussions available via this link.

The table below from ELDAC highlights what self-care is, as well as some common misconceptions that are important to be aware of.

What self-care isWhat self-care isn’t
Self-care is about making a commitment to your own health and wellbeing.

Self-care is about doing those things that you consider important for your own health and wellbeing.

Self-care is about the having information, skills, and support that you need to manage your own health and wellbeing.

Self-care is about seeking help when you feel stressed or overwhelmed.  



Self-care isn’t selfish.

Self-care isn’t a weakness or luxury.

Self-care isn’t only for people who are unwell.

Self-care isn’t the same for everyone.

Self-care isn’t just yoga and meditation.

Self-care isn’t just being physically active, healthy eating, and sleeping well.
 

To visit ELDAC’S online self-care room, follow this link.

ELDAC also points to a range of institutions that provide mental health resources and clinical support available via this link.

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