This week is Dying Matters Awareness Week. The theme for this year is “Dying to be Heard”, which aims to encourage people to listen to their loved ones if they want to talk about death.
The health and care system in Gloucestershire recognises that it’s hard for people to talk about death and the practical aspects of preparing for it. It’s too easy to dodge that conversation with a joke or a “maybe later”. So when someone wants to talk about death, it’s really important that we become the other half of that conversation. If they want to talk, we need to listen.
John Trevains, Director of Nursing, Therapies and Quality at Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our recent experiences of Covid-19 have meant that we are all sadly experiencing bereavements either in our families, our friends or our communities and many of us are having conversations about death and dying on a daily basis.
“This can be both sad and distressing but it’s important that we continue to have open and professional conversations about dying so that we can support patients, families and carers through making plans and taking sensitive important decisions regarding end of life.”
In previous years we have been able to reach out to the community by using the NHS info bus, talking directly to people to help them think about how they might prepare themselves and others for the inevitable reality of death and dying.
The Covid-19 pandemic presents new challenges. We recognise that things are different at the moment and it may not always be possible to be with a loved one at the end of their lives.
While we cannot take away the distress of not being with loved ones at the end of their lives, the NHS in Gloucestershire, is committed to making sure that nobody who loses their life as a result of coronavirus is seen as just a number or forgotten. We are doing this through the every name is a person campaign.
The campaign, inspired by Dr Emma Husbands, Consultant in Palliative Medicine at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and her colleagues working together in the One Gloucestershire End of Life Collaborative pledges to never forget that:
Every name is a person.
Every person a life lived.
Every life a story behind it.
Dr Husbands said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented event for us all. Across Gloucestershire we have worked hard as an Integrated Care System, to try and continue to provide compassionate and individualised care for all those dying during this period and for those important to them.
“We have all recognised the compromises that Covid-19 has led to – from the hidden faces behind the protective equipment to the inability to be with loved ones during illness and in bereavement. Despite this, we have tried to continue services to the best of our ability and maintain our pledge of always remembering that behind every name is a person.”
Sam White, Lead Nurse, Specialist Palliative and End of Life Care at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “In these troubling times, I would want to use Dying Matters Awareness Week to highlight and pay tribute to the staff across Gloucestershire who recognise how important care of the dying is.
“Staff from across the board have stepped up in an unbelievable fashion to ensure loved ones in our care are treated as if they are own. I thank them for this important role that they are providing”.
Churchdown GP, Dr Hein Le Roux, said: “Over the past few years we have put a lot of effort into promoting professional awareness and training into the importance of having a conversation and listening to patients and their loved ones to better understand their expectations and wishes around dying so that these wishes can be followed as the person approaches the end of life.
“The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted that these conversations are more important than ever.”
Advice and support for people dealing with bereavement can be found by visiting www.onegloucestershire.net/enap
To help start the conversation you may want to look at this video – Talking about grief during Covid-19. The video was produced by Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds co-founders of The Good Grief Project based in Gloucestershire. The focus of the organisation is to help people find a more comfortable language for grief. The 9 minute video features 2 bereaved mothers sharing 5 things that the death of their sons has taught them about how to survive in these unfamiliar times.
Links to other relevant website and information on how other organisations can support during this week:
- Further bereavement resources are accessible here
- There is also information about the spiritual and cultural needs of our diverse community
- In response to Covid-19 Books Beyond Words have a series of accessible books available, including ‘when someone dies from coronavirus’
- Mencap covers dealing with a loss with resources available for families and carers and Easy Read guides e.g. ‘going to a funeral’ and ‘what can help you feel better when someone dies’. Mencap even runs a free GriefChat service for over 18s (Monday to Friday, from 9am to 9pm (or by email out of these hours to firstname.lastname@example.org
Support for NHS Staff:
- NHS Bereavement and Loss Support Line: 0300 303 4434 (7 days a week, 8am – 8pm)