The outreach service, run by Compassion in Dying in partnership with local branches of Age UK, will be available across England following a successful pilot in East London and a Big Lottery Fund grant of £1 million.
There are three main strands to the project:
- raising awareness of end of life rights among older people and their communities
- offering one-to-one support to older people who want to discuss their wishes for treatment and care, and providing support to complete an Advance Decision or a Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney
- delivering accredited training to professionals, volunteers and community groups.
Davina Hehir, director of legal strategy, policy and services at Compassion in Dying, explained: “People want to be in control of their own end of life decision making, but this cannot happen without the right information and support.
“We know that 82% of people have strong preferences on what treatment they would or would not want to receive at the end of life, but only 4% of people have made an Advance Decision or Lasting Power of Attorney to ensure their wishes will be known about and respected.
“My Life, My Decision will empower people to plan ahead for the end of life to ensure that, as far as possible, they can expect to die well.”
A taboo subject
A launch event for the service held last week was chaired by Baroness Sally Greengross, chief executive of the International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK), who commented: “Given that death is going to happen to all of us, it is astonishing that it remains such a taboo subject. Now is the time for this to change. We must talk about dying and better plan for our end of life. Access to advice is vital.”
Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP, Minister for Care and Support, gave a keynote speech. He said: “Decisions about end of life care can be heart-wrenching for patients and families, so I welcome the commitment of Compassion in Dying to support people with these difficult decisions.
“We want to make sure people nearing the end of their lives get good quality care tailored to their individual needs – earlier this year we launched our priorities for the care of the dying which made clear people should get care that is focused on their needs and preferences.”
The event also saw the unveiling of a new publication from Compassion in Dying, ‘Planning ahead: making choices for the end of life’, which aims to support people in England and Wales understand and plan for choices around care at the end of life and making decisions on behalf of someone who lacks capacity.
For further information on My Life, My Decision, or to download resources, go to the Compassion in Dying website.