VMCH’s O’Neill House, an end-of-life comfort care centre in Prahran, opens its doors this week. The service will provide 22 beds for people to experience the best available support at their end of life.

Sonya Smart, VMCH CEO says the concept of ‘comfort care’ is important to the organisation, as is excellence in end-of-life care.

‘O’Neill House provides palliative support for people in their last months of life, and ensures family and friends can maintain their caring role in this comfortable home, in conjunction with our care teams.

‘This new service offers people options at this important time of their life, so they can be supported in a home-like environment. We are then able to care for their physical and spiritual wellbeing, as well as ensuring their family and loved ones can spend valuable, quality time together.

Ms Smart said in 2017, Palliative Care Victoria estimated that 1 in 4 Victorians who die each year (approximately 10,000 people), died without adequate access to palliative care.

‘We also know that people are entering aged care much later in life, and at this stage, many of our residents are already palliative. The admission process into mainstream aged care can be very stressful for the older person and their family.

‘At VMCH we have taken this information and plan to continue to build on our palliative expertise and quality care, not just at O’Neill House, but across all our residences and, where appropriate, in our other services too.

‘Our aim is to ease the burden for our people and their families. We also want to reduce the need for emergency department presentations and deaths during transfers to and from services.’

Ms Smart says O’Neill was designed following extensive research, recognising the importance of the physical environment.

‘The surrounds and feelings of comfort has an enormous bearing on the person dying as well as on their family, friends and carers,’ she says.

‘All spaces are designed to be relaxed and welcoming. It is well lit, especially through natural light. The bedrooms are designed to enable families and friends to stay overnight, either within the resident’s room or in a dedicated family apartment.

‘The environment provides for privacy as well as areas to support intimate family interactions, larger gatherings and the sharing of meals.

‘This building is a sanctuary for the person dying and their families and friends.’