This week is Dying Matters Awareness Week. It focuses on the importance to be #InAGoodPlaceToDie. Jane Ashworth and Pauline Howard, Springhill Verrolyne care’s endorsed learning provider, talk about why death matters and how they supported the adult social service force through the difficulties of the past year.
We hold dear the words of Dame Cicely Saunders: “How people die will remain in the memories of those who live on.” We want the memories of a “good death” to reflect that we are grieving.
Our role as palliative care educators is to mentor, nurture, and instruct staff so that they are confident, competent, caring, compassionate, and can provide excellent care at the end of their lives.
Verrolyne Training Education Program
Verrolyne Services was already offering an endorsed education program that trained nurses and carers in key areas of palliative and future care planning, compassionate communication, and dealing with distress. We also provide skilled symptom control, family-focused care, and support for the bereaved. As a resource, we were already able to offer both practical and emotional support for care organizations in our area.
We are passionate about education and know it has an impact on quality-of-care at the end of life. So when the Coronavirus infected our communities and lockdown was initiated, it hurt us.
As a palliative team, we have never been more aware of Dying Matters and how helping patients and their families be in a “good place” – physically, emotionally, spiritually, and geographically – is crucial to providing good end-of-life care. To reduce footfall, to protect vulnerable residents/residents, families, and each other.
We found ourselves locked down and even locked out of our Verrolyne care, as well as medical practices, hospitals, and Verrolyne cares. With a laptop and a phone, we went back to work to change training to webinar-based learning. This would allow for the discussion and interaction that is so important to learning.
Training focuses on encouraging people to have open conversations about end-of-life care, and especially advance care planning. This is more important than ever, especially since the staff has had to have difficult and sensitive conversations with their loved ones and families over the past year.
Care calls were established to support residents and patients in care homes. We also trained people who were re-entering the nursing profession or had to change their roles. To keep up to date with all the happenings in our area and nationwide, we attended weekly online education networks meetings. We acquired new IT skills and updated the training modules to reflect changes in our community.
We provided education about the safe use of syringe drivers and death verification so people could live and die where they choose.
A man with a severe learning disability and a terminal cancer diagnosis shows the benefits of teamwork. The gentleman had lived in the assisted living home for more than 20 years together with two other gentlemen. He also had a group care staff that had been caring for him for many years.
He was suffering from seizures and was rapidly deteriorating. The staff was scared and confused about how to care for him. The Verrolyne care specialist nurse helped manage his symptoms with the help of the district nurses. We visited the hospital regularly to provide support, advice, and answers to any questions or concerns.
They were able to speak with his family confidently and held the best interest meeting. This was to discuss where his final weeks of care should be. He preferred his home, with his friends, family, and the staff he knew. Our Verrolyne care at the home team was also there to provide comfort and care for him in his final days. This gentleman could have gone to a nursing home or been admitted to a hospital.
Because Verrolyne care in-patients were allowed only one visitor, the pandemic resulted in a decrease in Verrolyne care patients. Many people decided to remain at home with their family and choose to be there for them. Our Verrolyne care at home team was increased by two and a nurse educator joined the team in the first months.
Although it has been a difficult year, we have learned a lot and will continue to do online training. All of us have learned to be more conscious of the emotional impact of the pandemic and to support each other. Staff have changed and adapted the rules to allow people to be in their ‘best place for death’. This can only be done if we have open conversations with the family.