Families and staff reflect on 25 years of the SPCEU

Tuesday, November 28, 2023
Families and staff reflect on 25 years of the SPCEU
The Specialist Palliative Care Evaluation Unit (SPCEU) celebrated its 25th birthday on Monday with an afternoon tea and special visit from a dear friend Val Truant.

Val’s sister and brother both passed in the SPCEU, before her mother passed away at home with the help of SPCEU.

“Even just walking in here it all comes back,” Val said.

“The care they got was excellent, they were very compassionate and caring. It was very good because my sister’s children were in their early 20s when she passed away and they needed a lot of support which they got.”

Val and her families’ experiences in SPCEU encouraged her to give back to the service, raising $100,000 for the unit over the years with the door takings from the Bendigo teddy and doll show and other ventures.

Now President of the PCU auxiliary, Val puts efforts into her knitting and craftwork, to help make the hospice environment homely.

Nurse Deanna Keogh has worked at the service since its inception, as has Elaine Moore, who set up the hospice’s first kitchen.

They have seen the service grow from 10 beds to 30, provide at home care and expand services and palliative care knowledge throughout the Loddon Mallee region.

“When we first opened it was very much end of life care. Now it’s about symptom management and a lot of other supports. It’s a very different world,” Deanna said.

“The care we give directly impacts on the care and bereavement families have. If we can try and ease something for them it helps in some way.”

As service manager, Alison Smith said the support extends to the home setting with a 24-hour support line.

“We provide the equipment, medication and 24-hour support. Having direct access to a nurse working at night helps keep patients at home. Even if it’s just that nurse on the other end of the phone that re-assures them,” she said. 

Dealing with death is something SPCEU staff become accustomed to, but as Deanna explained, it doesn’t make it any easier.

“It’s a privilege and it’s difficult but we do what we can to make it easier for the patient or family,” she said.

“We have a memorial book, so many people I remember, so many funny stories.”