Last Thursday I attended a later life conference in the Barbican. I was most struck by the sessions on Palliative care and dignity.
Palliative (end of life) care is of high importance to me, for those of you who know i was a carer for my terminally ill uncle. recieving proper palliative care is vital. according to a survey, 83% of people are afraid of dying in pain, 67% of dying alone and 62% of dying in hospital. making sure people die in the circumstances they would most prefer, as offered by a health service is a vitally important function for a service billed as being from cradle to grave. There was an interesting presentation which left a lot to think about.
I was also interested to hear of the work being done at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, who have a dignity programme designed to make sure patients feel involved in thier treatments, respected during thier stay in hospital, fell as comfortable as possible and have their needs taken care off. I can't imagine what working a 137 hour week, or 60 hour shifts are like, (or can I?) but I have experiences where I felt those were lacking in the treatment some of my relatives have recieved. I will never forget one nurse, Patricia, at the Royal Free stroke unit who exemplified a compassionate and responsive medical professional. I wrote to her superiors thanking her, and she was even modest about that.
The conference showed that even in the later stages of a natural life, one does not need to give up, and there is still plenty that can be done (bucket list anyone?), but, as with the vision strategy, you need a working system in place that assesses needs and circumstances, and explains to patients what they are and are not able to do.