The local NHS and other care providers have joined forces to raise awareness of dying, death and bereavement during Dying Matters Awareness Week 14-20 May, 2012.
These days, many more people live to old age and tend to die outside the home. This means that many people today do not experience a family member or close friend dying until they are into their mid-life, and it is even less common to have seen a dead body.
Society as a whole has never been less exposed to death. As a result, fear of the unknown means that people sometimes avoid people who are ill or dying, and do not feel able to support them.
The organisations taking part are all providers of end of life care and have seen first-hand what happens when people leave it too late to have a conversation about dying. Their teams are trained to advise others about how to have these difficult conversations.
Lindsey Turton, Macmillan Lead Nurse for Palliative Care, Humber NHS Foundation Trust believes training alone though is not enough and therefore as part of Dying Matters Awareness Week a seminar for health and social care staff has been organised where they can learn more about the signs of dying, dying with dementia and financial and legal planning at end of life. Lindsey said:
“This will provide an opportunity to talk about the challenges our staff face and how they and the public can be better supported. This feedback will influence decisions about the future delivery of end of life care and dementia services as part of the NHS Securing Sustainable Services Review which aims to transform and integrate services to provide high quality seamless care for patients.”
Angie Orr, Modern Matron for End of Life Care at City Health Care Partnership CIC said:
“Our first priority is to give our staff the tools they need to have these often difficult conversations with patients and carers. We then need to ensure appropriate information is available locally to advise and guide patients, their carers, family and friends on talking about dying and death as not talking has many unwanted consequences. These include:
•If relatives and loved ones do not know a person’s preferences, they may make decisions about care the dying person does not want
•Close relatives may be unaware of how best to help and support a person who is approaching death
•Those nearing death may feel isolated, distressed or frightened, which can impact on the level of pain they experience
•People may die without writing a will, or relatives may be unsure about funeral wishes.”
Linda Johnson, Patient Services and Quality Manager at Dove House Hospice believes it is important to have a conversation about your end of life preferences as early as possible as with some illnesses such as dementia people can quickly lose the mental capacity to make decisions about their life. Linda said:
“We want people to feel they can communicate their preferences for the end of their lives – what they want to happen when they are approaching the end of their lives, what they want when they are dying, and what they want to happen afterwards. Everybody deserves ‘a good death’ and this is more likely to be achieved by talking about it early on.”