After death care is an essential service offered by paediatric hospices in the time between the death of a child and their funeral or care being transferred to a funeral home. This service allows families time together, privacy and memory making opportunities (Oldham, 2021. ehospice. [Int. Child. ed.], Sept.29) when this may have been limited in the acute care setting or families may have been focused on acute care and interventional management. Resources that are required include family support and clinical teams with experience in after death management, and resources to promote cooling. The length of admission provided to families varies across paediatric hospices and depends on a balance of family preferences, policies of the facility based on experience and condition of the body. As such, any resources that can promote optimal cooling facilitate more time and a better experience for families.
Hummingbird House Hospice (Brisbane, Australia) and Acorns (West Midlands, UK) are experienced in after death care. Hummingbird House uses innovative mobile cold sheets to best support after death care, now being adopted as practice in Acorns Hospices with collaboration between services. Mobile cooling sheets are inexpensive, simple to use and do not require coolant to be pumped through like ‘cuddle cots’ or other cooling mat devices. Advantages include decreased reliance on coolant-based technology (more vulnerable to malfunction), ability to facilitate twins (or other multiple births) being laid together, and increased portability to experience ‘normal’ parenting such as having time outside in a pram. A case study highlights advantages from a family perspective.
The organisational barriers to implementing this new practice have included: justifying additional resources to those already available; need for educational resources and organisational guidelines; lack of local experience; concern about unlicensed use of products and correct storage. We hope to share our experiences and learnings with this new technology to increase the options in care available to bereaved families across the UK.
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