End of life support charity Shannon’s Bridge started with the last conversation between Talbot-resident Jeremy McKnight and his daughter Shannon.
As the 19-year-old died from leukemia in March 2016, she urged her father to find a way to help others in the same situation. Inspiration came from the pack provided by Shannon’s doctors with medicines, tools and information sheets so she could die in relative comfort at home.
Starting by just distributing a few packs to GPs, then training volunteers to assist those contemplating end of life care, the not-for-profit started by Mr McKnight and his wife Belinda is set to open the first End of Life Care Hub in Creswick on Wednesday, after receiving a $2.5 million state government grant in April.
The opening will coincide with national Dying to Know Day, which encourages conversations and community actions around death, dying and bereavement. From 10am, the new premises at 94 Albert Street in Creswick will be filled with those uncomfortable but important discussions.
Mr McKnight said “unless you’re actually forced” to confront the issue of end of life care, it’s hard to engage with, but he hopes by having a physical hub where people can ask questions and access services.
“We’re trying to train people in the palliative care area, which is a bit of a taboo; people don’t know about, or it’s a bit scary or morbid, people don’t know what to say or how to say it,” he said.
“Because of where we live in the country, the services aren’t always there. So have a chat, come and see us and we can tell you what is around and what the options are. It’s a good conversation starter with your family as well.”
Contrary to what it might seem, the hub is about finding ways to “live every minute”, according to Mr McKnight, providing space for massage, counselling, art, music and horticultural therapy, or just a cup of tea and a chat.
“We had no idea it was going to get this big,” he said. “I know from the other side of the fence that the littlest things make a difference.”
The not-for-profit will expand into five different Victoria cities over the next five years, including Bendigo.