The week kicked-off with research published by Dying Matters which warned that many people are at risk of not having their wishes for end of life met because we are uncomfortable discussing dying, death and bereavement.
This message was picked up by a number of national news papers, including The Guardian, The Independent and the Daily Telegraph – which focused on on how religious and spiritual needs ranked as least important factor for those facing the end of life.
There were also a number of high-profile blog posts published throughout the week, including one by Dr Katherine Sleeman, doctor and academic in palliative medicine at King’s College London’s Cicely Saunders Institute. In the post she reflected on her own experience and how junior doctors still leave medical school ill-equipped to care for the dying.
Professor Mayur Lakhani, GP and chair of the Dying Matters Coalition and The National Council for Palliative Care, also wrote on the subject, calling for medics to realise that death is an inevitable part of life, not a failure, and for healthcare professionals not to shy away from discussing dying.
There were also a number of more personal blogs and stories which highlighted to need to talk about about death and dying. In one by Sara Revell from Myton Hospices, the communications officer shared how, while talking about death is part of her job, she can’t help feeling that sharing her wishes could somehow bring forward her death, or that of her loved one.
Hospices across the country got involved in the week – holding a range of events from workshops to film screening – at the hospice itself, out in their community and online.
Several hospices held drop-in sessions or workshops, often in partnership with local solicitors and funeral homes, to encourage people to think about and plan for their death.
St Cuthbert’s Hospice used the week to launch a long-term campaign ‘Everything in place‘ which will encourage people to think about death and dying – and the practical issues around it such as power of attorney, care plans, wills and funeral plans.
Death Cafés were also popular – St Luke’s Hospice teamed up with Sheffield Hallam University to hold one on campus and get students and staff alike to talk about living, dying and death. As well as a chance to chat over coffee and cake, there was an opportunity to record personal thoughts and plans for dying and death via a ‘Vox Box’ and to place wishes on a tree of life.
‘Before I die’ walls also popped up in a number of places, encouraging people to think about what they would like to do before they die. St Barnabas Lincolnshire Hospice took their ‘Before I die’ wall on tour around Boston, along with a number of other events.
One of the more novel events organised by St Barnabas involved one of its nurses reading ‘Lifetimes’, a story about beginnings, endings and about living in between, to children at a local nursery. “The story is a wonderful resource with large colourful illustrations that help a younger audience to understand that dying is as much a part of living as being born,” explained Emma Warner, specialist nurse practitioner.
In another unique event, Trinity Hospice hosted an informal session discussing the challenges facing trans people, and in providing care for them in an inclusive and non-discriminatory way. Ayla Holdom, Britain’s first and only openly transgender military pilot, was there to provided insight into areas we need to consider when caring for trans people.
St Richard’s Children’s Hospice carried out its own survey to find out about local people’s attitudes to death. They found that almost half (49%) of respondents under the age of 50 are scared of the idea of death, while fewer than 1 in 5 people over 50 felt this way.
Several hospice used the week to launch new services or initiatives.
For example, the week saw formal launches of the new Wirral end of life care charter (which is supported by Wirral Hospice St John’s), the Wandsworth Care Coordination Centre and a new service from Sue Ryder’s Manorlands Hospice and Carers’ Resource to support families and patients when a loved one is nearing the end of their life.
This is just a small sample of events which took place dying Dying Matters Week 2015 – what did your hospice get up to? Let us know in the comments below!