New end-of-life care strategy debated in council

A new strategy to promote open conversation on end-of-life care has launched in Sandwell.

Sandwell Council House
Sandwell Council House

Many people are reluctant to hold conversations with their loved ones about their preferences about end-of-life care, funeral and financial planning.

The ‘Sandwell Better Endings – End of Life Care Strategy 2021-2026’ plan was discussed at the health and wellbeing board on Wednesday night.

In the meeting, six key promises were raised to help people access the right information, to have the right access to educational opportunities around death and dying, and to make the conversations around dying a less taboo subject.

Suni Patel, Healthy Ageing project manager, and leader of the presentation, said: “While working with faith groups and community groups, I thought we have difficult conversations about dying, for example, writing the will, as well as cultural and religious nuances.

“I think sometimes people will pre-empt it and they don’t want to think about speaking about death with their family, but actually it’s just having those conversations, and being sensitive and passionate about it, which is the best approach.”

The Sandwell end of life strategic group hosted a virtual event with over 85 people back in May 2021.

Various sessions took place, including exploring bereavement support via a local Yemeni community centre and a new compassionate community initiative led by the voluntary sector in Sandwell, and hearing from young people about their bereavement experiences and what they would like to happen to make things better was discussed.

Councillor Suzanne Hartwell, chair of the health and wellbeing board and cabinet member for adults, social care, and health, was moved by the presentation and thanked the Dying Matters team for bringing it back into the “public domain”.

She said: “I lost my husband, and it’s been nearly 12 years now, but when it came to it, we got support from an organisation called ‘Hospice At Home’.

“I remember the lady who used to come in from the hospice, asking me that [the hospital] may ask him to be admitted. But he didn’t want to, he wanted to be at home. And that always stuck in my head.

“When the time did come, and by that point he lost his voice, they wanted to take him to hospital. And I said no. I said to them he wants to be at home. He wants to die here.

“Unfortunately, he didn’t talk about the dying part. So regarding the wills and next steps afterwards, it was left for me to do.

“But I think this, to come about now, is real powerful stuff, and we need to speak about it more. Because at the end of the day, you can have a good death if you’re ready.

“Obviously if it’s sudden then my heart goes out, but when you’ve got time to plan, and to sort of embrace death, it could be quite rewarding, and happy, knowing that person is going to go on to the next journey, and you’ve done whatever you can for me. And that includes a personal funeral too.

“So I’d like to say thank you for bringing this to the public domain.”

The content of the report faced no objections in the meeting.

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