Nov 16, 2022

Coffee helps aged care staff approach end-of-life conversations

Coffee helps aged care staff approach end-of-life conversations

Aged care workers from almost 50 facilities across Australia have come together over cups of coffee to discuss some of the toughest topics in aged care – death, dying and end-of-life care.

Driven by End of Life Directions for Aged Care (ELDAC), the initiative inspired staff to openly chat about typically taboo topics over morning or afternoon tea.

Facilities that hosted an official ELDAC Coffee Cart Competition also received an entry into a draw for a visit from a barista-run coffee cart, with Bordertown’s Charla Lodge selected as the winning facility.

End-of-life care is a critical part of aged care as roughly 36% of Australians will pass away in residential aged care facilities, according to 2016/17 statistics. 

That figure is expected to increase over the coming decades with a projected baby boomer influx set to increase resident populations by 75% by 2040.

Dr Priyanka Vandersman, a Research Fellow for ELDAC based at Adelaide’s Flinders University, said healthy discussions about death and dying are essential for staff wellbeing.

“When people who work in aged care are reluctant to talk about end-of-life, not only does it have a negative impact on the quality of care provided, but it also affects the aged care workers’ emotional wellbeing by causing feelings of guilt, burnout, and dissatisfaction at work,” said Dr Vandersman. 

“There are enormous demands on the aged care workforce to provide appropriate care at the end-of-life, and for many, high-quality palliative care starts with having a conversation – with their co-workers, with their managers, or with the people they are caring for – to better prepare them to provide that care when needed.”

Dr Vandersman said ELDAC saw an opportunity to “stir up” conversations with the help of a cup of coffee as it would create a comfortable atmosphere.

“When we launched the competition in early October, we weren’t expecting more than 25 aged care facilities to take part, but we have been amazed to see over 100 aged care services across Australia showed interest in this competition,” said Dr Vandersman.

“Half of them formally participated by organising a morning tea to have a conversation with their staff about death and dying.

“The interest this competition has garnered has not been limited to the aged care sector alone.

“We even received a competition entry from a specialist palliative care site who said that while they knew they weren’t eligible for an entry in the draw, they wanted to take part to have those important conversations about death and to share our useful resources with their staff and on social media.”

Participating facilities said the initiative made it easier to address palliative care and end-of-life care topics as a morning or afternoon tea break lifted the mood.

Dr Vandersman thanked the facilities that used the initiative as an opportunity to acknowledge their staff’s hard work.

“Many sites participating in the competition have used their morning or afternoon tea as a way to formally recognise the work of their staff in caring for people who are dying – to bring that acknowledgement front and centre, whereas usually that kind of recognition would not occur organically,” said Dr Vandersman. 

“Many aged care sites are expecting to continue the tradition well beyond the coffee cart draw, and we will be supporting them with additional resources from the My Care Matters campaign.”

Dr Vandersman said ELDAC is also looking into producing new resources to showcase the importance of more casual conversations about death with aged care workers.

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  1. When we lost 4 residents in one week , all long term ones we had all cared for over 4 years or more .. the Bosses couldn’t understand why staff were grieving. Yes you move on do your job, but we were all broken and tired . No offers of staff meeting to debrief.. would have been nice . All aged care staff are overwhelmed and tired 🥹

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