John knew Corpus Christi Community Greenvale (CCCG) would be the last place he would live.

The 90-year-old had called CCCG (a residence for marginalised older men) home for 21 years before he passed away late last month.

This week (19–25 May) is National Palliative Care Week, aimed at raising awareness about the importance of talking about death and dying.

For-purpose aged and disability organisation VMCH offers palliative care to aged care residents at the end-of-life stage and through its specialised palliative comfort care centre, O’Neill House, in Prahran.

An important part of VMCH’s palliative care is its 27-person-strong Pastoral Care team, who provide emotional and spiritual support to residents and families throughout their journey with VMCH. The support is particularly vital to residents who, like John, have no family or friends to support them at the end of their lives.

My sister, who was a Catholic nun, got me in here. It saved my life ... I have been really well looked after, and I appreciate it ... I know that I will die here, and I am happy with that.

As the longest residing member of the CCCG community, John had forged lasting bonds with fellow residents and staff since moving in decades ago.

‘I was in Sydney basically living in a gutter before here,’ John recalled. ‘My sister, who was a Catholic nun, got me in here. It saved my life. When my sister passed on recently, the support the staff gave me was wonderful. I have been really well looked after, and I appreciate it.’

Also important to John was his Catholic faith. ‘I got that back being here. We have a chapel on site. I know that I will die here, and I am happy with that.’

So when John approached his death last month, the CCCG community was ready to provide the support he needed.

Right up until the end, John enjoyed people being with him. He died surrounded by his friends.’

‘We followed John’s wishes, which included arranging his funeral at our chapel with a full Mass,’ said CCCG Residential Services Manager Donela Perry. ‘The residents sat with him, and staff spent extra time with John, engaging in pastoral care and activities. Right up until the end, John enjoyed people being with him. He died surrounded by his friends.’

Support at CCCG continues after the death of residents, with the home providing funerals and burials for men who cannot afford services.

‘We currently maintain 350 graves at our cost and have room for future needs. We believe that dignity is shown to our current clients by knowing we are a community that supports and understands,’ Donela says.

VMCH Chief Mission Officer Bridget O’Shannassy says it is stories like John’s that really shine a light on the huge role pastoral carers can play in a positive death experience.

‘Pastoral carers provide a caring, understanding and confidential shoulder to lean on. They are non-judgmental listeners in times of loneliness, anxiousness, fear or ill health,’ Bridget says.

I’d like to thank our dedicated pastoral carers for the empathy, strength and kindness they show to our residents, clients and families, not just during Palliative Care Week, but every day.’

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The chapel at CCCG. (Photo courtesy of VMCH.)

Support at CCCG continues after the death of residents, with the home providing funerals and burials for men who cannot afford services.

‘We currently maintain 350 graves at our cost and have room for future needs. We believe that dignity is shown to our current clients by knowing we are a community that supports and understands,’ Donela says.

Pastoral carers provide a caring, understanding and confidential shoulder to lean on. They are non-judgmental listeners in times of loneliness, anxiousness, fear or ill health.

VMCH Chief Mission Officer Bridget O’Shannassy says it is stories like John’s that really shine a light on the huge role pastoral carers can play in a positive death experience.

‘Pastoral carers provide a caring, understanding and confidential shoulder to lean on. They are non-judgmental listeners in times of loneliness, anxiousness, fear or ill health,’ Bridget says.

I’d like to thank our dedicated pastoral carers for the empathy, strength and kindness they show to our residents, clients and families, not just during Palliative Care Week, but every day.’

If you’d like to learn more about CCCG or VMCH’s Pastoral Care services, call 1300 698 624.

Banner image: CCCG Lifestyle Assistant Jenny Tobin with John. (Photo courtesy of VMCH.)