For some families, having a loved one enter palliative care is the point where the hopes and dreams of recovery begin to make way for the grim reality of impending death.
Palliative care is a family-centered model of care that is focused on a patient’s level of comfort and overall quality of life, and one of the key aspects of providing this comfort is ensuring that families and patients are given the chance to connect and get as close as they feel they need to.
Physical contact provides both a mental and physical representation of the fact that you are there for a person, and there is no better example of this than the warmth and comfort that a person can receive from a cuddle.
And this is why oversized ‘cuddle beds’ are having such a massive impact for both the families and patients in Palliative Care.
Cuddle Beds are a simple yet innovative product that is bringing joy to palliative care patients and their families in Queensland. These oversized beds contain enough room for family members to lay down beside their loved ones living in palliative care and provide physical touch and comfort from close quarters.
These beds have been used by a variety of family members including whole families looking to say their final goodbyes to a grandparent, a husband or wife comforting their dying spouse, and even parents who are trying to comfort a terminally ill child.
Occupational Therapist, Russell Plumbridge-Jones said in an interview with the ABC that the idea was pitched by hospital staff in 2017.
“One of the people that actually inspired this was a mother who was here with her 21-year-old son, and it came about because she said that she felt that physical barrier,” he said.
“With him being her only child, she wanted to be there with him at his end of life and she was leaning through the bars and holding him.
“She said to have this [cuddle bed] option would have been life-changing for her.”
The therapist said patients going through the health process often became disconnected from their loved ones.
“We help them reconnect both physically and emotionally, so they feel like they can let go and time to move on, but they’ve got that connection at end-of-life,” he said
The emotional toll that comes with trying to process your-own-death leaves a lot of palliative care patients feeling disconnected from family and friends.
No matter how sympathetic or understanding someone may be, they are simply unable to fully relate or comprehend what a person who is approaching the end of their life is going through and this dynamic can actually make a palliative care patient feel lonely despite having people around.
Family members who visit loved ones in palliative care often spend a large portion of their visiting time holding a patient’s hand in an attempt to feel closer to them, and it is not uncommon to see people sleeping in chairs, roll out beds and even on the floor to remain close to a patient.
A number of palliative care staff believe that hearing is the last sense to go when someone is dying, and Cuddle Beds provide family members with an opportunity to whisper “I love you,” while wrapping their arms around a loved one as they die.
It goes without saying that Cuddle Beds are an option that many palliative care environments would love to offer, but with a cost of $10,000 it is understandable why they are currently a choice that not many are able to make.
There are currently two operational Cuddle Beds in Queensland, and they both happen to be on the Gold Coast. Robina Hospital’s palliative care ward has one, and the other can be found at the Gold Coast University Hospital.
Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said that there would be two more of these beds rolled out on the Gold Coast despite the hefty price tag.
“I’ve got no doubt that’s hospitals across the state will be looking to the Gold Coast to hear about their experiences,” he said.
“If it’s successful, no doubt many hospitals will look within their budgets to install them to meet the demand of the community.”
Photo Courtesy of ABC