What is bear cottage?
A little bit about Bear Cottage
Bear Cottage is the only children’s hospice in NSW, one of only two in Australia, and the only one in the world affiliated with a children’s hospital. It is a very special place that’s dedicated to caring for children with life-limiting conditions and their families.
Planning began for Bear Cottage almost 20 years ago, when Dr John Yu and Dr Michael Stevens from The Children’s Hospital at Westmead decided to enhance the hospital’s palliative care program.
Located on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, in Manly, Bear Cottage is like a home away from home – as far removed from a hospital environment as possible. Here staff do not wear uniforms, no medical procedures are carried out in the bedrooms, the children’s rooms are designed to like a normal bedroom, and we even have a family pet, Frankie, our adorable Labrador. That said, Bear Cottage is set up to provide excellence in paediatric medical care 24 hours a day, and our affiliation to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead means we have access to some of the best medical resources in the world.
The facility was established entirely through community support, at a cost of $10 million, and was officially opened on St Patrick’s Day, 17 March 2001,
Bear Cottage does not receive any recurrent government funding and so continues to rely on donated funds and community support to raise over $2.9 million required to operate each year.
Who benefits from Bear Cottage?
Bear Cottage provides support, respite and end of life care for children with life-limiting illnesses and their families.
We care for children from across Australia, regardless of where they receive their primary care, although the majority of families that access the service are from NSW. The children who visit Bear Cottage will range from newborn infants to 18 years of age; however accommodation is also available for parents, as well as siblings, of the children staying.
When these families are told that their child’s life will be cut short, their everyday existence takes on a monumental change. As they embark on such a terrible journey, there are limited options available to help them get through each day, and answer the many questions that arise. Having Bear Cottage available to them for care and support enables these families to focus on the important things, such as spending quality time together and making every moment count.
Most families staying at Bear Cottage will come for respite; with the average length of stay is around one week to ten days. Families are generally able to visit Bear Cottage around 4 times a year for general respite, however for end of life care this can be open ended.
The Facts and Figures
Estimates suggest there are well over 5000 children aged 0 – 19 years across Australia requiring palliative care. In the last year alone we have cared for well over 200 children with a life-limiting illness. There have been 16 children this year that have come to Bear Cottage for end-of-life care – where they can be surrounded by love and support, in a happy, safe environment, right until the end. And in the last 10 years we have supported around 600 families, both current and bereaved, as they go through their heart wrenching journey.
Why is Bear Cottage special?
Whilst staying with us, our families can do as little or as much as they like. We have staff and volunteers on hand to do the cooking and cleaning, allowing families to forget about the stresses of everyday life, if just for a short time. We are fully medically assisted, so our nurses are available 24 hours a day to administer medications and support and guidance; and Frankie, our resident dog, is always around for a cuddle. We have full-time play and music therapists, and volunteers are there so mum and dad can spend time together or with their other children – often something that is forgotten when you’re caring for a terribly ill child.
Bear Cottage is there for every child, parent, or family who needs us, and they will never have to pay a cent. With one, and sometimes both parents, giving up work to care for their child, many of our families are simply not in a financial position to pay for anything that is not absolutely necessary.
By having Bear Cottage available to them at no charge means they can take a break and re-charge their batteries, safe in the knowledge that their child is being cared for by the best staff available. They can enjoy time with one another without having to worry about the housework and cooking. Most importantly though, they can spend quality time together and create special memories that will last long after their child has passed away.
Goals for Bear Cottage – 2013
It currently costs more than $2.9 million a year to keep the doors open at Bear Cottage. With no recurrent government funding, we rely entirely on community support to raise these funds.
Our goal for 2013, as with every year, is to raise sufficient funding to keep Bear Cottage available for the very special kids and their families that rely on it. We also aim to give the children that visit Bear Cottage as many special memories as possible – because although we can’t add years to their lives we can add life to their years.
All funding makes an incredible difference to Bear Cottage and the children that come here. It allows us to continue providing vital services such as:
- paying for daily medication for patients
- funding important kid and parent camps
- providing a play therapist for the children
- ensuring that vital equipment is available for treatment and care
- help fund families to stay at Bear Cottage for respite and end of life care
- help pay for a specialised paediatric palliative care doctor
For many people, Bear Cottage is perceived as a sad place. But for those families who visit here, the staff who work here and the volunteers and community who support us, it is an incredibly special and happy place, where lasting memories are created.
Source: Bear Cottage