Nursing director says dying at home should be more viable for people in rural areas


A nursing director says dying at home should be a more viable option for Australians living in rural areas.

Director of state operations for the District Nurses in Tasmania, Fiona Onslow, said many people have the desire to die at home but only a small number get to realise their wish.

Ms Onslow said a dying at home program she is involved with could be rolled out nationwide.

“The program came about because the majority of Australians have identified that their wish would be to die in their own home,” she said.

“But only 16 per cent of Australians seem to be achieving this.”

“We find that people from rural areas become very displaced from their community when they don’t have the choice to die in their own home,” she said.

Ms Onslow said adequate support services need to be in place to facilitate dying at home.

She said many different nursing experiences had led to the program’s inception but one was particularly poignant.

“It was a Friday and everyone was packing up; we are not funded to provide care on weekends,” she said.

"A student nurse came in after visiting a gentleman who lives on his own.

"He didn’t have any family and he was dying and he was very insistent about dying in his own home.

"[The nurse] started to ‘tear-up’ as she was leaving work.

"She said that man’s going to die in his home alone because there is nothing out there to support him.

“That was really heartfelt emotions because that is the reality of how people were dying.”

Ms Onslow said the District Nurses’ dying at home program involved coordinating healthcare providers.

“So if a person is on the farm and things aren’t going so well we can ring a health provider in that area to do visits,” she said.

“The key is we can pay for that separately to the pool of that organisation’s funding.”

Ms Onslow said very remote living such as outback cattle stations did present challenges to the program.

“We have been setting up some technology bases where we have someone that is always on the phone,” she said.

"We have kits that we are developing with medications that can go into the homes.

Ms Onslow added that the District Nurses had educational material on safe ways to use the kit’s medication.

“A Skype option that we can set up via satellite for people in remote areas means they can face-to-face with those nurses who are on call,” she said.

"We think there is great opportunity for this program to be further developed throughout all of Australia.

"This is something that the Federal Government haven’t funded before - a project like this.

“They are looking at how we can deliver on this project so we can look at rolling this out in other areas.”

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