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Lasting Legacies: Conversations about end of life in Suffolk

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Lasting Legacies: Conversations about end of life in Suffolk

I was delighted to speak at the recent 2018 Health and Wellbeing Conference – Lasting Legacies: Conversations about end of life in Suffolk.

We always talk about needing the best start in life but we never really talk about needing the best end in life.

I think it is very important that we have these conversations. Not just as we approach the final chapters of our lives, but throughout our lives. As Dame Cecily Saunders reminds us, how people die remains in the memory of those that live on.

Over the past decade, the way we manage death has really changed.

Many years ago, the person who would have seen you through your last months would have been your local minister but now it is much more likely to be a doctor or nurse.

Because, as a society, we aren’t sure what to say or do when someone is dying, people can become very isolated at the end of their lives and very reliant on the health and social care systems.

Figures for Suffolk show us that for 44% of us, the image we will see in our last days is from a hospital bed, but we know that most of us would actually want to be in our own bed, surrounded by families, friends, pets and familiar things.

At the Hospice, we know that the demand for care at the end-of-life is going up. More people are living longer and needing increased support in the final chapters of their lives, and we know current resources are already stretched.

I believe the time has come for us to drive social change. We need to put death and dying back into the community.

To be able to do that we need to work with people; we need to equip and empower them.

People need to know that they are going to be supported, not just by their friends and family, but also by the wider community, their employers, colleagues and local businesses.

It’s not enough for us to just talk about and plan for our death, we need to know what to do to support the dying, those caring and the bereaved.

We want people to be able to speak comfortably about dying, death and bereavement.

There has been a fair bit of research done around the idea that networks of support do give a better experience because it is not the healthcare professionals that make the difference, it is the people around you that help you and support you with the little, but important things, like doing the washing, walking the dog and collecting prescriptions.

We want everyone in the community to really understand and know what to do and how to help when someone is dying.

Therefore, at St Nicholas Hospice Care we are using what people have told us about their experiences of illness, dying, death and bereavement to develop a new model of hospice care and over the next year we are going to be testing some different ideas to see how we can help more people have a better experience at the end of their life.

More information about this project can be found on our website here.