Our Care Approach & Palliative Care Recognition - Sacred Heart Community

Sacred Heart Community is a 73 bed not for profit residential aged care home providing care and support to residents within the community of St Kilda since 1994. Our home provides a special place for residents who have a history of homelessness and disadvantage. This has often resulted in negative life experiences including the effects of poverty, exposure to multiple traumas, drug and/or alcohol addiction and social isolation.


Our Model of Care

'My Community-My Way' takes its lead from residents and is guided by trauma informed care. The model encompasses every aspect of services provided to residents by staff, allied health practitioners and volunteers. It was inspired by a photo we found of a single dandelion in a field of daisies which highlighted that every person is unique, is special and needs to be treated as an individual. We modelled our care approach around this belief.

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My Community-My Way came about as recognition that we had a very specific resident population who required a different approach to their care, support and engagement within the internal and external community. This led to a new position, ‘Emotional Support Therapist’, a number of residents engaged as ‘Resident Representatives and Advocates’ along with the 5 staff team in a reinvigorated Life Matters Program (Lifestyle) which commenced in 2016. The Life Matters program further adds value to wellbeing and fosters a sense of belonging with innovative activities such as, the residents’ choir, laughter yoga, Drama Group (which will shortly be putting on a play for the community), art, community gardening, assisting philanthropic organisations with packing knitted items for example KOGO Knitting. Residents garden in the community gardens. We provide a combination of expert professional support, trauma informed practices, emotional support and pastoral care.


Two residents have been mentored to become residents’ representatives and advocates and provide additional support such as visiting other residents in hospital, listening to their concerns, providing support at appointments and orientation for new volunteers and staff. This has been ground breaking for the residents involved and provides them with a sense of value, worth and giving back to the community in which they live. Residents are encouraged to ‘look out for each other’ and provide feedback to staff.


Security, continuity of care and development of a deep, trusting and respectful relationship between all staff, volunteers and residents is a hallmark of what we do. We wrap services around people, not the other way round1. This ensures that each resident is uniquely supported and able to live their lives to the full potential.


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Over the past 12 months we have been monitoring our resident’s wellbeing using the QPS Benchmarking Quality of Life Assessment Tool. Our overall Quality of Life assessment result has continued to improve over 2 consecutive quarters and is performing significantly higher than the QPS industry benchmark. In our latest audit results we identified 70% of resident’s quality of life improved with the main reason due to effective recreational activities and reflects our enhanced Life Matters lifestyle program.


The Life Matters program coordinator uses the detailed QPS assessment findings to review residents whose QOL has changed to work out why, including undertaking a review of activity attendance records and individualised programs are developed for the resident. Our programs aim to provide a variety of social, cultural, spiritual, physical, creative and therapeutic sessions in large, small and 1:1 settings. The team works together to provide opportunities and access for choice and decision making to encourage everyone to live as they choose, and as independently as possible. Wellbeing and nutrition programs are also occurring on a monthly basis and we have increased the rostered hours for lifestyle, emotional support, and physio. Our model of care is promoted by all staff, everybody here has a special relationship with each resident and this is modelled from the top down.


Palliative Care Award

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We received the Palliative Care Award from Bethlehem Calvary Hospital in recognition of our holistic approach to providing support for residents at the end of their lives. We were presented with our certificate by the community palliative care service (CPCS) staff during National Palliative Care Week, 21-27 May 2017.


We have been working with Bethlehem Calvary Hospital for a number of years who support us in providing care for residents with palliative care needs. With Bethlehem, the resident, the resident’s GP, the Registered Nurses, all of the staff in our facility, Emotional Support Therapist, Pastoral care and volunteers, we are able to continue to provide holistic care for the residents until the end of their lives.


As residents often do not have any family, this community is their family. Residents are encouraged, to the extent they feel comfortable, to be a part of providing support to a dying resident within their community. Some residents will assist with a drink or meal; others will take a resident out for a cigarette whilst some choose to sit quietly at the bedside. Others enquire about the welfare of ill residents from staff, the pastoral carer and/or the parish priest.


Residents have made a memorial quilt using cloth handprints of all our residents and staff. It is placed over the coffin in the church and is a symbol of our ongoing love and care. Funeral services/memorials are conducted at the local Sacred Heart Mission Church and in the home for residents who are unable to attend the service.

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A resident summed it up:

'You can spend the rest of your life here. You won’t die alone and you will be surrounded by loving people.'



Margaret Thorpe, Facility Manager, Sacred Heart Community


1Mental Health Coordinating Council (MHCC) 2013, Trauma-Informed Care and Practice: Towards a cultural shift in policy reform across mental health and human services in Australia, A National Strategic Direction, Position Paper and Recommendations of the National Trauma-Informed Care and Practice Advisory Working Group, Authors: Bateman & Henderson, C, Kezelman, C.