Opinion social care Wellbeing

The importance of normalising dying as part of life

Anita Hayes, Clinical Quality Lead, Hospice UK

Death is often viewed as a taboo subject, something that makes people feel uncomfortable and should be avoided in discussions, yet, the reality is that death is an inevitable part of life, and end-of-life care should be everyone’s concern. It’s time we normalise dying and recognise the importance of living well until the very end.

At Hospice UK, we’re the national charity for hospice and end-of-life and we represent the UK’s 200+ independent hospices. Our hospice members are experts in end-of-life care, and through conversations about and planning for death,  we believe everyone can be supported to live as well as possible until they die.

One of the fundamental aspects of end-of-life care is supporting individuals to identify what matters most to them. Whether it’s spending time with loved ones, finding peace, making plans for what happens after they die, or fulfilling a lifelong dream, everyone deserves the opportunity to define their priorities as they approach the end of life. By understanding and respecting these wishes, we can ensure that individuals receive the support and care they need.

End-of-life care can be delivered in any setting and people should have the choice to live out their final days in the setting that suits their preferences and circumstances. Hospices provide dedicated and compassionate end-of-life; they make people comfortable in their final days and support them in the lead up to end of life through outpatient or community care. Some people may choose to receive end-of-life in the comfort of their own homes, surrounded by their oved ones. Social care plays a crucial role in making this possible, by offering support in various settings, including the home and hospices.

Social care professionals, including hospice staff, social workers, and professional carers, are at the forefront of end-of-life care, playing a vital role in communication and care planning. They deliver person-centred, holistic care, working in partnership with healthcare providers and multidisciplinary teams. Whether in hospice settings or other care environments, these professionals can support effective care coordination to ensure that individuals receive quality support and assistance from all involved parties.

Hospice staff have a wealth of end-of-life care expertise, and it is important for social care professionals to have access to education in palliative and end-of-life care skills. This equips them with the knowledge and tools needed to provide high quality compassionate care to individuals in their final phase of life.

It is highly important for staff to take care of their own well-being through reflective practice, as ongoing support and training are essential not only to improve skills, but also to help them navigate the emotional and practical challenges that come with end-of-life care. Professional grief, and the emotional context experienced by staff working in hospices, care homes, hospitals and other care settings, means these individuals need to prioritise self-care. Working in end-of-life care can be incredibly rewarding, but professionals still need to protect their emotional well-being to prevent burnout, compassion fatigue, and cause staff to be less effective in providing care.

Ultimately, end-of-life care is not just a medical issue, but a human one. It’s about honouring the dignity and autonomy of individuals as they approach the end of their journey. By normalising dying as part of life, we can create a culture of openness and compassion, where conversations about death are met with understanding, rather than fear. In conclusion, end-of-life care is everyone’s business. It’s about living well until the very end, respecting individual wishes, and providing support wherever it’s needed.





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