Years as a palliative care nurse showed Deidre Bidmade that not everyone was getting the death they wanted.
People were spending their final days in hospital, when they would much rather be at home, surrounded by their loved ones.
“It was really difficult for people to have choice and then if they then took that choice (to die at home) there wasn’t a real support network around them to make it a success,” Ms Bidmade said.
Eight years ago, Ms Bidmade joined with other like-minded people to form Warrnambool and District Community Hospice, which they hoped would fill gaps in existing palliative care services and provide trained volunteers to help people care for their loved ones at home.
“Seventy per cent of people want to die at home, only 15 per cent do so, but on the program now we’ve managed to bring that up to 50 per cent,” she said.
“That’s the absolute truth of this scenario. People want to die at home, they really do. They’re comfortable, they’re surrounded by their loved ones, there’s no time constraints.
“You can’t expect people to do this journey on their own, they do need the supports. Not having social connectedness and the carer burn-out factor, it’s just set up to fail. Hospice has been able to fill that gap beautifully.”
In recognition of her work to improve end-of-life care, Ms Bidmade claimed a leadership award at the 2018 Premier’s Volunteer Champions Awards at Government House in Melbourne on Sunday.
She paid tribute to the hospice committee, managers, the service’s 70 volunteers and hospice president and “mentor, hero and friend” Eric Fairbank.
“I feel incredibly privileged to be part of this,” she said.
Beyond its hospice in the home program, Ms Bidmade said the organisation was also helping to increase death literacy in the region and encourage difficult conversations around end-of-life.
“People are starting to show a real interest in planning their own deaths, whereas before this you would talk about death in a cupboard. You wouldn’t dare say it in front of your children. I think we’ve made some amazing in-roads,” she said.
“It’s becoming common chat among people. It really is making a big difference.”