What is a good death?

Death is often a taboo topic for most, as people perceive it as being morbid, dark and sad. But in aged care, death is something they have to deal with every day.

Death is a part of reality, and though some people may shy away from the topic – it is something everyone will have to eventually face.

Designing a good death in residential aged care is the focus of a new co-design project being undertaken by Bolton Clarke in partnership with RMIT University and Bolton Clarke retirement living residents.

Design integration lead Matiu Bush has travelled along the East Coast with his One Good Death map, from a pop-up workshop at a retirement village to two sessions with 60 students and design professionals at RMIT.

“We are focused on developing a model for best practice end of life care in residential aged care communities,” he said.

“The idea is to produce clear recommendations and practical, tangible strategies that will enrich the experience of residents and create exceptional end of life care. We’ve spent time with funeral directors, retirement village residents, the Coroner’s Court, vets who manage grief of pet owners – the process map has travelled over 7000km.

“Australia has some brilliant examples of delivering really good end of life care in residential aged care communities, but no single best practice model. Co-designing service solutions with non-clinicians and people outside the industry allows for fresh thinking and fresh ideas from a variety of unique perspectives.

“Many participants have shared stories of their own parents and grandparents who had been in residential aged care or had received palliative care.”

Matiu said industries from child care to the funeral industry had important perspectives to share.

“Funeral directors shared that we should be working on reconnecting and reconciling families as a soon as a resident comes into aged care so they can work together to provide support.

“We’ve also looked at comparing the processes when a new family books in for child care and looking at what lessons could be learned for aged care facilities.

“Simple things like curation of a resident’s identity through the production of memory boxes and interactive storyboards could make a big difference, and might be used to educate staff and ensure people’s stories live on.”

Matiu said while approaches would vary across individual sites, the end of life care model would provide a valuable resource supporting better end of life experiences across residential communities.

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