May 11, 2021

Keeping adolescents out of aged care: First Australian hospice for young adults

Hospice young adults
An artist’s impression of the hospice for young adults.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday turned the first sod at the site of the adolescent and young adult hospice, which will provide palliative care for 15 to 24-year-olds and their families when construction completes late 2022.

The facility is the first of its kind and is being pitched as a test case for similar facilities across the country for young people who have to seek respite care in aged care facilities if required.

“What families have told us is that once children achieved teenage years there was really nowhere for them to go if they’re suffering from chronic, life-debilitating or life-limiting disease,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“Hopefully this will be the first of many such places around the state and around the nation that can support young people and their families.”

The waterfront development, on the site of the decommissioned Manly Hospital, will be made up of eight bedrooms for patients, a media and games room and two accommodation units for families.

“It’s been hard for the last couple of years, since I turned 18, to not be able to go away with my friends to a place like this. For me to travel on my own I have to organise lots of equipment,” Mr Green said.

“Without places like this adult hospice, people like me don’t really have many places to go.”

Debbie Van Hoek said the hospice would fill a void for her son Matthew, 22, who has cerebellar atrophy and cerebral palsy, and has also missed the support available at Bear Cottage, particularly after hospital visits.

“There’s no transition, we’ve got to go straight home and deal with everything. We’ve been suggested that we go to an old people’s home. That’s not appropriate for young gentlemen,” she said.

“Here, we’ll be able to sort of have that transition. There will be the respite for Matthew and he will be able to go and see his friends. It’s just going to make a world of difference to us.”

The $19.5 million development is the result of combined state and federal government funding, community fundraising and philanthropy, namely $5 million from Manly couple Kay Van Norton Poche and her husband Greg Poche.

Ms Berejiklian said young people like Mr Green and Mr Hoek were the inspiration for the project and their voices had been heard.“You and your families are the inspiration for this and the inspiration for what successive generations will enjoy,” she said.

Ms Van Norton Poche, who has supported Bear Cottage for many years, decided to back the project after learning young people were often seeking respite in nursing homes and rehabilitation centres.

“I just thought, we’re better than that. Dignity begins with life, and each life has it. So let’s give it to people that we can, when we can,” she said.

Member for Manly James Griffin said the facility would provide care for young people across NSW, including from rural and regional areas.

“This is a wonderful example of what happens when government, community and philanthropy come together to unite behind a single cause,” he said.

Originally published by The Sydney Morning Herald. Republished with permission. 

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