Over the years older people’s residential care has gone from being a lifestyle choice to one that that supports people who have many health problems and who are often in the end stages of their life. This change has happened over the last 30 to 40 years and it has meant that the social care sector has become very much more focused on end of life issues.
Sadly, we live in a society where death is seen by the health system and many others as a failure rather than seeing it as inevitable part of our life.
There is a tremendous responsibility placed on care services because a good death is something we should all have a right to and it is something that you only get one chance to achieve. Over the last 40 years, the care sector has become expert in delivering good quality end of life care and it is something that we can all be very proud of.
As a society, we tend to be in denial about the fact that our lives will end and this means that people often find that they have not thought about how they would like their end of life care to be delivered and consequently, people often don’t have a clear view which does not help those looking after them to make sure they respond to their wishes.
I’ve been very impressed by the way in which the care sector has embraced this role of facilitating a good death and there is some excellent support to care providers to help them get it right. I have been impressed by the work of the Gold Standards Framework, which is really helping many care services to understand what they have to do to deliver good end of life care.
The benefits of getting it right are immeasurable and they are not only about the person who is dying but they are also important to the families and loved ones they leave behind. There are countless examples of people whose grieving has been supported by the knowledge that their loved ones were cared for and received dignified support at the end of their life.
I believe care services are at the very vanguard of good quality end of life care and there is much that the NHS and other services could learn from care providers about how they deliver a good quality and peaceful death. We are all going to die, that is an inevitable fact of life, but we all should have a right to a good death. Care in health services only get one chance to get it right, but there is also the responsibility that we as individuals have to think about what would make our passing better and to ensure that we communicate this to our health and care providers so that they understand what is important to us.
The conversation about death and dying needs to start early and we should all be thinking about the end of life care and communicating our wishes to families and loved ones.