Around 54,000 people die each year in Scotland, most following an illness. Four times as many are affected by the loss of a loved one.
How do we best support these people to live well, help manage conditions and give quality and meaning to their life as their health declines?
This is the question I ask myself, as the Improvement Advisor for Palliative Care within Living Well in Communities, and as a daughter who looked after her Mom during the last few months of her life.
I loved my Mom so very dearly, and I started grieving while still caring for her. It was a time I found incredibly difficult.
Mom wanted to stay home but the say of doctors and the power of the system dominated the decision-making around her care. It seemed to me you were either in the system (hospital) or out (on our own).
Her palliative journey was one of pain and crisis. As her main carer, I gradually became exhausted and, whilst we tried to treasure her final months, her last few days were chaotic and full of interventions rather than the peace and respect she so very much deserved.
Many things have changed since then.
Palliative care has evolved from what many thought of as as end of life care for people with cancer, to what I see as the local, person-centred, holistic care and support that everyone wants.
Living Well in Communities is supporting Health and Social Care Partnerships to improve:
- identification of people who would benefit from palliative care
- coordination of that care
Through co-production, bringing those who use and those who provide health and social care services together, we can build on what works well to improve consistency and access to services. By doing this we hope to better meet people’s needs and preferences and provide the right care at the right time.
I believe using this approach will help develop palliative care that, where appropriate, enables people to spend more time living well at home or in a homely setting, with the support of their family and community.
I look forward to having the kind of open, honest and sometimes difficult discussions that come with those who strongly believe in something: that everyone has the right to the highest quality palliative care and support, wherever they live, whatever their condition.
For Mom this would have been support and care at home – with a cup of tea, lots of cuddles and, always, a laugh.
There are challenges ahead, but these are the kinds of challenges that for me lead to learning, development and improvements that have positive impact.
I hope you’ll get in touch with me to tell me your story, your ideas, hopes and plans. You can also follow me on twitter @MichellePEOLC.
Let’s do this together.