SEVENTY per cent of people say they would prefer to die at home, but in Warrnambool less than 15 per cent manage to do so, a leading Warrnambool palliative care expert says.
Dr Eric Fairbank said most deaths in Warrnambool did not occur at home because people did not want to be a burden to their family and friends, or because they did not have the necessary support to stay at home.
Dr Fairbank is the former director of Warrnambool Base Hospital’s palliative care unit and last year was honoured with the 2013 Victorian Public Healthcare Award for Health Lifetime Achievement for his work.
He has written numerous works to help people come to terms with death, including Living & Dying in Style.
Dr Fairbank said the Warrnambool and District Community Hospice (WDCH) not-for-profit organisation was established in 2010 to give local people the opportunity to die in a home-like environment.
It had initially considered building a hospice to give terminally ill people a place where they would feel they had a “home away from home”, he said. However, without recurrent government funding the ongoing costs of a hospice would have been too much for a community organisation to bear.
“It has been decided that a better option is to strengthen existing services,” Dr Fairbank said.
“At the moment no one provides overnight home care, or even care for extended periods during the day, for those who are dying.
“WDCH has decided therefore to establish a Hospice in the Home program. With specially trained volunteers working under the supervision of a qualified nurse, the vision is to provide people with the option of compassionate care in their own home setting, meeting the living needs of those who are dying, as well as the needs of their family and friends.”
Dr Fairbank said palliative care services already operated by the Warrnambool Base Hospital and St John of God Hospital would collaborate with the proposed Hospice in the Home service.
“It will be integrated with all other health services, public and private, including doctors, district nurses, allied health services and other community services.
“Hospice in the Home is in the early stages of its development. Arrangements are currently under way to find its own headquarters, to develop a new volunteer training program, and to complete the administrative details necessary for its successful operation,” Dr Fairbank said.
He said the group would soon seek volunteers for the program after appointing a co-ordinator for the volunteers.