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The views and opinions expressed in our blog series are those of the authors and are not necessarily supported by CareSearch, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health.
I really wasn’t sure what this Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on death and dying was going to look like but I dived in boots and all.
I am a nurse working as an End of Life Care Coordinator, so dead, death and dying are among the three most common words I use every day at work. I approached this course not only from a professional point of view but as a member of the community. I feel this made my experience so much richer, as I was able to appreciate the comments from across the board and indeed from across the world.
Over the past two years, CareSearch has hosted Dying2Learn, a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) about death and dying. We created the course hoping we could provide a community platform for open social discussion and connection on death, dying and palliative care – something that at times can be hard to strike up a conversation about in our day-to-day lives.
Australians are not well prepared for death and there are indications that many people are not comfortable talking about death. It may be that as medical advances have improved our life span we have become less familiar with death or that as our community has changed our rituals and practices for caring for the dying have also changed. The last few years have seen an increasing interest in ensuring that dying is recognised within the community. Death education, public health promoting palliative care, death cafes, and compassionate communities are just some of the ways that people are reclaiming an awareness of, and a responsibility for, death and dying.
In my role managing two aged care homes in Melbourne, I have come across a number of challenges which needed to be overcome. I took over one home four and a half years ago and the second 18 months ago, discovering the same basic issues in each home; after the first time, the issues were relatively easy to change. Staff were fractured in the sense that departments did not necessarily rely on each other and work together, and knowledge of clinical issues was only handed over to clinical staff, not to the whole home (not an unusual happening). My idea of sharing with all staff was greeted with a degree of scepticism at first, but staff embraced it quite quickly and then started to discuss things across different departments.
For this discussion, aged care refers to the additional care required for an older person needing regular health professional input either in the community or in an aged care home.
Palliative care is, according to the WHO (World Health Organisation), ‘an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual’.