“The peace that comes with knowing you and your family will be well cared for, helps our patients die with the support they need and assists their families through the grieving process that follows,” says St John of God Frankston Rehabilitation Hospital's Acting Director of Clinical Services Karen Ward.
“It’s this sort of comfort that is invaluable to patients in their final stages of life and it’s a service that I’m very proud that we now offer.”
Despite being widely believed to be a service purely for the dying, palliative care at St John of God Health Care challenges that idea with its range of care options available that focus on living well ─ but with a life-limiting illness.
“It’s all in the details,” offers Karen. “It’s the little things we do and the unique services we can offer that enable us to go the extra mile and focus on improving our patients’ quality of life throughout the time they have left with us on earth.”
One way this is done is through the holistic approach to care that St John of God Health Care prides itself on.
“We understand that end-of-life and palliative care is centred around the person and their physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and social needs. In our palliative care units this could come in the form of practical help with managing symptoms or it could come from meeting with our pastoral care practitioners for comfort, counselling, support and guidance,” explains Karen. “At the end of the day our goal is to improve the quality of life of our patients, along with their families, friends and carers.”
Palliative care is based on what a patient’s needs are and not their diagnosis.
“Many of our patients who are deemed to be palliative are not, in fact, at risk of dying imminently. They may be admitted for a condition that is making them ill but may only need care for a couple of weeks,” explains Karen.
It is for this reason that St John of God Health Care invests in providing ancillary services such as music and art therapy, Delta Dogs, VR goggles, spiritual care and guidance, a wish-granting program called Dream A Little Dream, along with patient lounges and sensory gardens that are designed with a patient and their loved ones in mind.
As a not-for-profit private health care operation, St John of God Health Care relies heavily on the generosity of its donors to develop services and provide unique care that contributes to improving the comfort and quality of life of its patients.
Most recently that generosity resulted in St John of God Health Care’s South East Melbourne hospitals being able to purchase Cuddle Beds to add to its growing list of additional palliative care services and programs. These large patient beds have been set up at both St John of God Frankston Rehabilitation and Berwick Hospitals and are designed to offer a compassionate approach to end-of-life care.
This family-centred model of care enables loved ones to provide physical touch and comfort from close quarters during a patient’s final stages of life.
“We know that the sense of touch can demonstrate compassion, empathy and kindness,” says Karen. “Once a person is admitted end-of-life care, you often see loved ones spending a great deal of time holding a patient’s hand to feel closer to them and to provide care. It’s not uncommon to see loved ones sleeping in chairs, roll-out beds or even on the floor in order to remain as near as possible to the person who is dying.”
These oversized beds are large enough to fit whole families who want to be close to or wrap their arms around their loved ones while they die.
“We often hear that a person’s hearing is the last of the senses to go before death and Cuddle Beds make it possible for people to say their goodbyes while embracing their loved one,” offers Karen.
At a cost of almost $30,000 each, these beds don’t come cheap, states Karen. “And that’s why we are so fortunate to have the support of our community who make it possible for us to invest in these amazing advancements in the administration of palliative care.”
Karen continues, “Despite that fact that end-of-life care can signify the point where hopes and dreams of recovery give way to the stark reality of death, these beds can still manage to bring about some joy, along with a sense of peace and comfort during what is a very sad and difficult time many for families.”
If you would like to learn more about palliative care options at St John of God Berwick and Frankston Rehabilitation Hospitals, please contact:
St John of God Berwick Hospital
8784 5000 or email
St John of God Frankston Rehabilitation Hospital
9788 3333 or email
For information on how to donate visit St John of God Foundation where you can donate online to St John of God Berwick or Frankston Rehabilitation Hospital directly. Email St John of God Foundation or call 1800 281 288 for further support in regards to donations.