Health With Omega - June/July 23
Not Fearful But Ageing In A Caring Community
There has been much comment on Twitter since an esteemed elderly GP wrote of his fears for care in his later life and death as the NHS is less able to cope with demand. I know what he means as I see the contraction of health and social care just when bits of me, and my partner, are creaking.
These concerns are not confined to our generation. Younger medics warn us not to climb a ladder and not to be adventurous as, “This is no time to break a leg or need care.” The nervous tension of failing to deliver permeates a workforce resigned to being able to do less.
This is, however, no time for resignation but a time to grasp an opportunity. Statutory services have taken over much of the community care that used to be a normal part of ageing and dying surrounded by family and friends. Caring family friends and neighbours have been replaced by the NHS ‘cradle to grave service’ which it can no longer sustain. Now is the opportunity Public Health Palliative Care has been waiting for to revive, enable and re-embed compassionate communities to come to the aid of ordinary folk living alongside us in the frailty of ageing, illness, dying and bereavement. This task has been given new impetus by the Lancet Commission report on the Value of Death. We are born, we live, we die. All are totally natural but made so much better with loved people around us.
Post-pandemic this venture of reaching out to others has been liberated but not yet fully harnessed. Working with Compassionate Kenilworth and the Compassionate Communities team from UHCW (Walsgrave) we are making progress in upskilling our communities, person by person, by running a local course in death literacy for healthy individuals, to help them become better family, friends and neighbours to those in need around them.
The course involves sharing and making friends as well as information about planning ahead and being confident to talk and help others. It is a small, but vital, venture if we are to decrease our fear of the future. We know that 95% of the last year of life is spent at home in the community and only 5% when clinicians are in attendance. Most of the need in this time can be met without professional training if the person caring has the confidence to ‘be there’. We can bring hope to counter our own, and the fears of others, by being ready to care.
Are you ready to care? For more information scan the QR code:
By Dr Chantal Meystre, Director of the Omega Course