This blog post was contributed by Lesley Carter, Joint Head of Health Influencing at Age UK.
“How people die remains in the memory of those who live on”, Cicely Saunders (1918-2005), founder of the modern hospice movement.
Positive advances in health care and public health mean that most of us will die later in life. Hooray! Yet most of us have never had a conversation with someone we love about death and dying and actually most of us don’t really want to. I think it’s a generational thing. But this is not the best place to be – this approach will not help us cope with our own death, or that of a loved one, or to manage our own feelings during death and bereavement.
This week is World Continence Week, an annual campaign to raise awareness of continence. The theme this year, Incontinence – no laughing matter, tackles a common response by people to laugh off incontinence. However, it’s a big issue for older people. Wouldn’t it be great if the stigma surrounding incontinence was shaken a little?
The ‘I Love My Pharmacist Award’ recognises the vital role pharmacists play across the NHS. Often the unsung heroes of the health service, they work alongside GPs, nurses and hospital staff, as well as in the community.
There has been a great deal of press interest recently in the Liverpool Care Pathway for the dying patient (LCP). It has been described in more colourful language, which I will return to later, but I should start out by explaining what it is – and just as importantly what it isn’t.
The LCP was developed in the late 1990s by a hospital in Liverpool and a local Marie Curie hospice. The aim was to bring high-quality hospice care for cancer patients to hospital settings. Later, this was expanded to non-cancer patients and has been adopted by a large number of hospitals throughout the NHS and other countries.
Why was (and is) this necessary? Modern hospice care emerged in the 1960s out of a desire to improve the experience of dying for terminally-ill patients. Hospitals are traditionally very good at delivering curative care, but do less well at caring for people whose greatest need is to be as pain-free and as comfortable as possible, and to have the reassurance that their families are supported to prepare and come to terms with a loved-one passing away.
The reality today is that the majority of people are in hospital when they die. Though the circumstances may vary – for example they may have been recently admitted as an emergency, or they were being treated for an illness that they may not recover from – past reports have shown that poor experiences can be very similar.