end of life care
Christmas in Britain comes at a cold, dark time of year. At the hospice, as elsewhere, we dress the wards up to keep the cold and dark at bay, and bring as much warmth and light to those spending Christmas with us as we can.
It is easy in our work to forget the impact we can have on those we care for, as it is something we all love doing. It is an immense privilege spending time with people towards the end of their lives and such rewarding work. Sometimes though, there are extra special moments and that Christmas day was one of them.
I was reminded of the valued contribution of the charity sector and its volunteers to end of life care when I recently met with a local Marie Curie Helper volunteer, who was providing incredible support and companionship to a constituent affected by a terminal illness.
Last Saturday 8th October marked World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, and this year the theme is 'living and dying in pain: it doesn't have to happen' - an important message on an even more important day. It has now been statistically proven that people who receive palliative care can live for longer.
Many people will struggle to get the care that they need as they approach the end of their life. According to Marie Curie, between now and 2020, approximately 250,000 people will die in London. We need to ensure that everyone who needs end of life care can expect to receive a high level of care that is personalised, coordinated, and sensitive to the needs of those around the patient as they enter their final months, weeks and days.
Hospices also have an important part to play in raising awareness of the new national commitment to end of life care. Their longstanding expertise in providing quality, compassionate care and their widespread links with organisations across their local communities, means their role will be crucial to help deliver the transformation in care for dying people that the Government desires and which is so urgently needed.
A good death - peaceful, dignified, reflective, compassionate, in the loving embrace of those closest to the dying person - is already a happy end for hundreds of thousands of people across our nation. In making this commitment, we make that promise universal, so that every dying person in England can live in anticipation of a good death.
In recent years there has been a string of national reports highlighting persistent failings in care for dying people, whether in terms of the quality of care provided or problems getting the right support.
By taking time to provide support, we help people when they most need it; we can help improve the health and wellbeing of carers and bereaved people; and we can build compassionate communities which show that - in the words of the Dying Well Community Charter - caring for one another at times of crisis and loss is everybody's responsibility.
My Granddad's final words to me came after I had prayed with him, - I thought he wasn't really conscious but then my mum and I heard him say 'Thank you' - it was the same gruff thanks I remember whenever I gave him presents at Christmas time as a child. I have to confess it was a moment to shed and happy sad tear. He had been aware, had appreciated my small action, and was resting again.