Dying with Peace and Hope:
A Special Purpose, Multifaith ‘Hospice’ with a Focus on the Spiritual
It’s natural to want to die peacefully and without pain. This is what most people would prefer.
This desire for a peaceful death is reflected in the stage of care called ‘palliative care’ which seeks to control pain – both physical and mental – sufficiently to make peace of mind possible at the end of life.
Physical pain we can all understand, but ‘spiritual pain’ can also cause great distress, said Andrew Allsop from Silver Chain and Palliative Care Australia. This is why psychological, social and spiritual care is such an important part of palliative care. Here, ‘spiritual’ refers to what gives purpose to our lives, and to our sources of meaning and hope. Spirituality refers to the way we experience our connection to ourself, to others, to our world and to the significant or sacred (Meaningful Ageing Australia).
Despite the importance of the spiritual side, it is in our experience generally neglected.
The ‘Pure Land Centre’ aims to restore the natural balance and give primary attention to the emotional and spiritual aspects at the end of life. The Pure Land Centre is about creating a peaceful and virtuous environment in a purpose-built, multifaith, facility in Perth, Western Australia.
Why does the environment need to be ‘virtuous’ as well as ‘peaceful’? A simple example of this virtuous attitude is feeling grateful for others’ help rather than worried about leaving your most precious things behind.
In short, the Pure Land Centre puts into practice some of the aspirations in the May 2017 Joint Position Statement of Palliative Care Australia and Meaningful Ageing Australia. It provides homely accommodation and a conducive atmosphere for those who wish to focus on the emotional and spiritual aspects in their last weeks.
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How the Centre Operates
The Pure Land Centre is not a hospice, since all nursing and medical needs are met by visiting health professionals such as Silver Chain. The dying person has a well-equipped private room, and there are adjoining rooms for their carers, who are usually their family, to live in. The dying person’s own spiritual teachers can be invited to visit frequently to provide spiritual guidance.
Plans for 2020-2021
Our research reveals that our concept for the Pure Land Centre has not been tried elsewhere. Our first step, therefore, is to run a pilot trial for a period of three years. We are now seeking funding, suitable premises and volunteers to start the pilot project. Our two main objectives for the next twelve months are to find a house to rent (in order to test our concept of a special purpose hospice) and to raise $100,000.
The Buddhist Connection
The Centre’s Committee is comprised of Buddhist students from Hayagriva Buddhist Centre, Phen Dhe Ling, and the Buddhist Society of WA. We hope in time to include other faith groups. Admission criteria includes that the dying person themselves has expressed the wish to have the conditions to allow them to focus on the emotional and spiritual aspects important to their tradition.
For example, a key Buddhist teaching is that having a peaceful and virtuous mind at the time of death triggers a peaceful death and a happy next life. Conversely, a mind that is disturbed, anxious, afraid, angry or unforgiving can lead to a difficult death and a rebirth full of suffering.
The Model of Care of the Pure Land Centre is a 23-page PDF document that covers the following topics:
- The Client
- Type of care
- Documentation & Communication
- Induction, training & credentialing
- Disposal & Storage management
- Access & Environment