Cancer patient Josephine Collins says she is content as she lies on an oversized ‘cuddle bed’, surrounded by her daughters and granddaughter in the Robina Hospital’s palliative care ward on Queensland’s Gold Coast.
Daughter Emma Knowles said her mum used to work in aged care.
The 62-year-old is one of the first people in Queensland to use the purpose-built bed, which comprises two single hospital beds joined together.
“They’re beautiful, they’re comfortable, they’re such a good idea,” Ms Knowles said.
“It would have been good, [as] not last night, but the night before. I slept on the little bench in the room.”
There are only two “cuddle beds” in Queensland hospitals — one at Robina, with the second at the nearby Gold Coast University Hospital.
Ms Collins was moved onto the bed Thursday morning after the previous patient died overnight.
‘Got that connection at end of life’
Occupational therapist Russell Plumbridge-Jones said 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.
Sharing the gift of ‘I’m here’
Robina Hospital Nursing Unit manager Maureen Tapfield said the beds would be used by married couples and parents comforting their dying children.
“We’ve had them as young as 19,” she said.
“The mother and the father are able to sit, usually at either end of the bed, and just hold that person — to be able to be close as your loved one is dying, shares that gift of ‘I’m here’.”
The nurse, who has worked in palliative care for more than two decades, said physical contact and intimacy was critically important for the patient and their partner.
“We believe that hearing is the last sense to go so that opportunity to whisper ‘I love you’ closely is very, very important,” she said.
Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said the beds cost $10,000 each and two more would be rolled out on the Gold Coast.
“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.”