Death is as natural as birth, yet do we as western society view it as this? As professional carers it is one of our main duties and responsibilities- to guide the people we care for through this important chapter of their lives. Throughout my life death has always be an interest, from a young age I realised the importance of speaking about it and raising awareness of what a ‘good’ death should be like. Through talking to many people I have found that many find the subject difficult to talk about, either they don’t know where to start or the prospect makes them feel uncomfortable and yet most people report that having the discussion can be a relief. I believe, however, that in doing so people can gain an understanding that helps them become very comfortable with this life event . When you are not scared of death what is there to lose? As professional carers we need to be able to facilitate this, we are the ones that often provide support in giving our clients their voices. Here are 3 different examples of how I supported clients and families at the end of life.
- The client I worked with often jokes about her death, in fact it’s one of the main topics of conversation - she has a great sense of humour. The fact that we can make fun of this is essential to her happiness and it is not all sad.
- My client had a religious upbringing and has said she feels religion provides her with a solace for death - after all where do we go? To heaven she wants to believe. She is scared, but does not know how to talk about it, she has never in her life spoken about death- not even to her husband!! Through sensitively broaching the subject we begin to have an open dialogue for the first time in her life, and she finally has an outlet for her fear.
- My client has been depressed since his wife was diagnosed with dementia, he told me he tried to kill himself at the beginning. We have worked together for 2 weeks now, and he told me this on my last day with him, I had no idea he was holding onto this feeling.
As you can see these are such sensitive subjects – but we hold the keys to opening these conversations, so in turn we have to be comfortable and well versed in having an understanding of death itself.
This year I had the chance to support a client through the end of life process, I truly saw this opportunity as a gift, to be able to provide care well and to the greatest standard. It was a meaningful experience and I was blessed to be able to be there. It wasn’t scary, it wasn’t horrific, and when the client finally took their last breath peace descended on the house. The Good Care Group provided excellent support during this time. I am sure that the client would have been very grateful and pleased with her passing.
I want to open up the dialogue about this subject matter, and see it as a celebration - I am sure there are many, many carers who are doing a marvellous job and have their experiences to share, and I am sure that there are some carers who fear this and wouldn’t want to participate in it. We are all here to support each other – The ‘End of life’ group on Carer Community is an excellent forum to share ideas, discuss worries and fears and to hear from others who may be in the same position.
On a personal level there are steps we can take to start challenging the taboo around death and dying. This week I am attending my first ‘death café’, an event held in most towns and cities which facilitate free, open honest conversations for people from all walks of life to explore feelings and thoughts. I am looking forward to this experience and would urge others to try and go along to one. If this sounds too daunting why not challenge yourself to have a conversation about death in the next few weeks, this could be with your colleagues, friends, or your Care Manager, you might be surprised at how empowering this can be.