Cooling Beds – Home Death Care

Where to Hire a Cooling Bed & Home Death Care

Home Death Care and utilising a Cooling Bed is an alternative to using the services of a standard funeral home. Until the 19th century, Death Care and funerals were family and community affairs. The family, sometimes with assistance from an experienced community member, laid out the body, dressed or draped it, and ordered a coffin from the local carpenter or made it themselves. People from all cultures have been caring for their dead for millennia – regardless of the climate, type of illness, age of deceased or traumatic circumstance surrounding the death.


Unfortunately it has become a common belief that individuals are no longer able to care for their own dead and instead must hire funeral professionals. This is not the only legal option. Nor is embalming required by law. Despite the rise in professional Death Care, it is and has always been legal in every state and territory in Australia for families to care for their loved ones from death until final disposition.

Why Home/Family Death Care?

  • Emphasises the family staying with their deceased loved one, involved and maintaining control in the days following a death.
  • Offers a beautiful and healing experience
  • Is often more affordable, holistic and respectful to the environment than standard funeral industry-led Death Care


What is Home/Family Death Care?

  • Washing, preparing & anointing the body
  • Dressing the body
  • Cooling the body
  • Holding Vigil

To ensure Home Death Care is a safe and sound practice, End-of-Life Doulas and Death Care community organisations use and offer for hire Cooling Beds so that your loved one can be kept at home (to Australian mortuary standards) for up to 3 days or more.

A Cooling Bed, also known as a Cooling Plate or Cooling Blanket, is a compact refrigeration unit which pumps coolant into a metal plate or blanket on which the deceased is laid out. Ice or techni-ice can be utilised, however a Cooling Bed is a non-invasive and easier to use option. Doulas can educate & empower (teach, demonstrate, advise, guide & support) families who wish to care for their own person using a hired Cooling Bed.

Caring for the body of a loved one who has died is possible and safe

The first Cooling Beds were imported to Australia in 2008 by Zenith Virago, founder of the Natural Death Care Centre in Byron Bay. The Cooling Beds are lent to the community on a voluntary donation basis. The centre has now also purchased a Flexi-mort Cold Blanket, which serves the same purpose as a Cooling Bed. Zenith Virago has been a professional Deathwalker, celebrant and acknowledged expert in the field of holistic death and dying for over 25 years. She is a respected leader in this field and in many ways has pioneered the concept of continual care at end of life by family and community in Australia.

“Home Death Care empowers families and friends to begin the beautiful journey of mending the tear in the fabric of their community that is caused when someone they love dies”

Zenith Virago - Deathwalker

End-of-Life Doula Support

Death Doulas support Home Death Care, as evidence suggests practices such as washing and preparing the body and spending time in vigil have short and long term positive impacts.

Natural Grace Funerals in Victoria provide enormous flexibility in supporting families to care and honour their deceased in the way that is most meaningful to the family. A further benefit, according to Libby Maloney from Natural Grace, is that partaking in caring for your own deceased loved one expands your capacity to then be deeply present and host the funeral in a more embodied way. Naturally this has therapeutic benefit in processing loss and grief.

The ancient practice of Holding Vigil

Holding Vigil is the practice of staying with our dead and accompanying them until their spirit departs from their body or when our deep creative unconscious informs us, through a felt sense or internal shift, that the time has come to physically separate and let go. We know from many diverse Death Care practices in cultures around the world that this often happens on the third day.

It appears that three days allows the human psyche the necessary time to go through the stages of trauma, despair and finally the gentle beginning of acceptance. These stages often involve the washing and preparing of the body and then inviting others into this sacred space to see their loved one who has died and be witnessed in this experience of deep love and loss.

When the body is in the family’s care, all of this can take place.

When the body is not in the family’s care, the abrupt physical separation from a loved one often creates a void and can feel jarring because these natural human needs and processes cannot take place when, and in the way that is needed.

“Families choosing Home Death Care express gratitude for the intimacy, connection, and sense of purpose that results from this organic practice”

National Home Funeral Alliance (NHFA)

When A Baby Dies

When an infant dies the benefits of parents and families spending as much time as is required, without the baby needing to be cooled in a traditional mortuary environment is understood well in the Australian healthcare system. To enable this, Cuddle Cots are now being provided by some Australian hospitals.

A Cuddle Cot is a cooling system that lies beneath the baby within a bassinet. When a baby dies there is a short window of time for the family to create memories, for siblings to meet one another and other family members to travel to meet the baby. Cuddle Cots extend the brief time for families to be together and also give parents the option of taking their baby home. Their use is encouraged by bereavement councillors and academics as a way to support the harrowing experience of losing a baby, as well as honouring babies who have died.

Bears of Hope, a charity supporting pregnancy and infant loss, have via fundraising so far raised $422,000 to provide Cuddle Cots in hospitals all over Australia. If you are considering making a donation towards the purchase of a Cuddle Cot for use in a hospital please contact cuddlecots@bearsofhope.org.au. In October 2018 the Victorian Government funded Cuddle Costs for The Royal Children’s Hospital, Box Hill Hospital, Northern Hospital, Sunshine Hospital and Northeast Health Wangaratta. Cuddle Cots can also be hired from Natural Grace Funerals in Victoria and Miindala in Bellingen, NSW.

“Home Death Care invites families, friends and community into an authentic and healing after-death care experience in a safe and familiar place, with care performed by loving hands”

National Home Funeral Alliance (NHFA)

Home Death Care can be an option even if the death did not occur at home

A person can be transported back home from hospital, palliative care, an aged care facility, the coroner or from wherever they have died to be cared for at home. Furthermore, the experience of Death Care (washing, vigil, dressing, cooling) by loved ones can also take place in sites other than at home, with permission from the facility – for example an aged care facility or a hospital.

Nigel Davies from Lonergan & Raven Funerals in Melbourne, supports and educates those interested in more traditional home based Death Care and funerals. Davies states that the two most common scenarios are “the End-of-Life Doula contacts us a week or so prior to death to organise delivery of a plain pine coffin – one the family can paint and decorate in the palliative room, and then later let us know when to bring the Cooling Plate. The deceased stays at home until the family is ready to part with their loved one and then we step in to assist again. Or, the family asks us to collect the deceased from a nursing home, palliative centre, or hospital. We take the person home or to a community centre for the vigil and provide a Cooling Plate. We often help lay out the deceased. Again, it is usually a few days until they require us again for the funeral service”.

Interested in purchasing a Cooling Bed?

Dutch-Australian End-of-Life Doula Lola Rushartland, based in Sydney, has a vison that every community in Australia has access to a Cooling Bed and the support to conduct Home Death Care. She is passionate about Cooling Beds being a reliable resource that allows loved ones to stay together after a death and for families to care for their own deceased safely. If you are an End-of-Life Doula, community organisation or funeral director who supports Home Death Care and want to purchase a Cooling Bed please contact Lola at rushartland@yahoo.com.

Want to learn more about Home Death Care?

If you wish to learn more about Home Death Care and Family Lead Funerals – helpful practical information and teaching videos can be found at Natural Death Care Centre and National Home Funeral Alliance.

If you are an End-of-Life Doula that uses a Cooling Bed in your own practice and/or can hire a Cooling Bed to families or other Death Doulas and wish to be included in the list below – please email info@endoflifedouladirectory.com.au. If you are an End-of-Life Doula without your own Cooling Bed, you do have the option of hiring a Cooling Bed from another Doula when required to support your clients.

Cooling Beds Available for Hire in Australia

NSW/ACT

Crossings – Paths of Death & Dying With Lola Rushartland 0408 412 094

Gentle Death Education & Planning – Dr Annetta Mallon Northern Sydney, Central Coast, Lower Newcastle 0412 702 833

Life Rites – Victoria Spence Sydney Metro & Greater Sydney, Blue Mountains to Lithgow, South Coast to Milton 0431 123129

Natural Death Care Centre – Zenith Virago Byron Bay and Surrounds 0427 924310

Sacred Earth Funerals – Mimi Zenzmaier Far North Coast NSW 0478 600778

Path Of The Heart – Annabelle Peacock Bondi 0423 160741

Belinda Poole End-of-Life Doula – Sydney 0438 862718 belindap1@live.com.au

Veronica Stevenson End-of-Life Doula – Blue Mountains & Surrounds, Greater Newcastle, Hawkesbury, Hunter Valley 0488 014680 vesw2510@gmail.com

Tender Funerals Port Kembla Region 0413 713776

Picaluna Funerals Sydney, Central Coast, South Coast, Southern Highlands, Blue Mountains (02) 9191 5006

Miindala Bellingen – NALAG Bellingen and Surrounds including Coffs Harbour, Dorrigo, Urunga & Nambucca. Also providing Cooling Cuddle Cots for infants 0448 084792 miindala2013@gmail.com

VIC

Natural Grace Funerals State-wide Service with Cooling Blankets, and Cooling Cuddle Costs for infants 1300 008 037

Melbourne End-of-Life Doula Services – Maria Lazovic Melbourne & Surrounds 0411 221750

Pippa White End-of-Life Doula – Outer Eastern Melbourne 0433 363041

Lonergan & Ravens Funerals Melbourne (03) 9489 8711

QLD

Kulakaya – Jancine Hurst End-of-Life Doula South East Queensland 0412 469520

Home Mortuary Support Services Stapylton, Queensland 0433 185514

TAS

Jumave –  Lynne Jarvis   0407 427575

SA

The Last Gift – Sandra Danher & Joy Martin, Adelaide & State-wide (08) 82512000 or 0467 072785 

You can read more about Cooling Beds here:
A restful pause to absorb the sharpest sting End-of-Life Doula Victoria Spence – Sydney Morning Herald 2012
End-of-Life Preparation Miindala’s Coolplate Bellingen Courier 2017

Author: Maria Lazovic