National Palliative Care Week 2020 – Creating a palliative care room for a resident and their family at Haydon

Colin McDonnell, Clinical Nurse Consultant | Calvary Haydon Retirement Community


This year’s National Palliative Care Week theme is “Palliative Care: It’s more than you think.” What is something you tell people about palliative care that surprises them?

Dementia is a terminal illness.

With the number of cases increasing every 3 seconds worldwide, and currently every 6 minutes in Australia. Combine that with the many co-morbidities that our fragile aging community are facing and you will understand the greater need for positive, meaningful palliative care.


Tell us about how palliative and end of life care is provided in a residential aged care setting, specifically Calvary Haydon Retirement Community.

Palliative care is increasingly becoming more important in the lives of our residents. Haydon’s palliative process incorporates many people. This includes nurses, pastoral care, lifestyle staff, maintenance staff, cleaners, catering and, most importantly, the resident’s loved ones.

The manager, with their leadership, guides the process and calls on all parties to ensure a dignified pain free death. This is the way we do things at Haydon.


Palliative and End of Life Care is known for being able to adapt to challenge with creativity and compassion. Can you reflect on an instance where you or a colleague have had to adapt the way you provide care during the COVID-19 pandemic?

During the COVID-19 lock down we set up a palliative care room in the current gym. The maintenance department built a temporary wall to hide the old gym equipment. They decorated the room with comfortable furniture, soft lighting, and images sacred to the person.

The room was at the front of Haydon facility, so relatives didn’t have to enter any of the households which contained other residents. The room is near the chapel, and near the café. Relatives could go and pray or have a refreshing break, with a coffee or cup of tea. The room is adjacent to a courtyard with easy access to a table and chair setting beside a garden.

Extended family could safely distance themselves in the courtyard, while they took turns in visiting their loved one. They could also communicate with each other through the sliding door.

The room gave the person and their loved one’s peace. They were not disturbed by other residents or staff. The space enabled all the family to gather at once without breaking any social distancing laws and enabled them to support each other.

It became a sacred space.


What is something you have learned about the people receiving care, their loved ones, your colleagues or yourself, when thinking about how palliative and end of life care is provided during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Palliative care or comfort care will inevitably change the way the aged care facility works. It is best practice to involve relatives and friends, and in general loved ones in any change which may affect their family member. As the routine of the facility changes to meet the evolving situation with COVID-19 and the resident’s needs, it is always helpful to have the understanding and cooperation of families and friends.


What’s next for your work; what are you looking forward to?

Our learnings are how important it is to have a private space like this room specifically set up for this one purpose. The ability to apply our comfort care regimes such as music therapy, aromatherapy and touch was easier for our staff and family to do in this room, without any interruptions.

Looking ahead, we want to offer more like this at Haydon.