Published: Monday, 25 July 2016 11:16
Written by Super User
“There’s a need for a positive approach whereby making plans becomes a part and parcel of everyday life.”
The End of Life Partnership was established in 2014. Aiming to transform end of life experience and care across Cheshire, the partnership comprises service development, education and practice, research and evaluation and public health and wellbeing programmes.
Kathy James became a trustee of the End of Life Partnership in June 2014. Andrew Bennett, Public Health and Wellbeing Worker spoke with Kathy about her professional and personal interest in end of life issues, why she became a trustee and her future aspirations for the organisation.
Prior to her retirement, Kathy was employed by the Motor Neurone Disease Association and represented the organisation at the Central Cheshire Palliative Care Operational Group held at St Luke’s Hospice. The group comprised representatives from a range of agencies with the aim to improve palliative and end of life care. As a member of this group, Kathy was able to keep abreast of developments within the field of palliative care and end of life services and help to ensure the needs of people with neurological conditions were taken into account - something that Kathy feels has been the case in Cheshire.
Working with people with a life limiting condition led to an increased interest in end of life issues, the work of the Cheshire Living Well, Dying Well Partnership and, eventually, resulted in Kathy applying to become an End of Life Partnership trustee.
The Cheshire Living Well Dying Well Partnership encourages people of all ages to take five steps when they are healthy to help ensure that they are prepared if the unexpected happens to them or someone close. The steps comprise making a will, making a funeral plan, planning future care and support, considering organ donation and talking with family members or friends about plans and wishes throughout the life course. I asked Kathy about the steps she has taken and what influenced her to do so.
“Prior to my retirement my job entailed working alongside people with a life limiting condition. I spoke about wills, advance care planning and other related topics but for some reason, I did not apply it to myself.
“I always thought I must make a will but it wasn’t until I attended the Wills Workshop organised by the Cheshire Living Well Dying Well Partnership that I thought, ‘come on, I’ve got to go and do this’. The workshop brought it home to me that this was something I should not ignore and that there are consequences if I did.
“I am pleased to say that I now have a will and my next step is to set up the two types of Lasting Power of Attorney in relation to financial and property affairs and health and welfare. However, if I hadn’t attended the course or become a Trustee, I don’t think I would have done it. I would have put it of and put it of.”
We discussed the type of life events that may prompt us to make end of life plans such as the illness and death of someone close and getting older.
“These things make you think but there is still a tendency to think that this won’t happen to me.”
This prompts the million dollar question, how can we encourage people to take action sooner rather than later? Kathy explained;
“We need to normalise death. We are all going to die. There’s a need for a positive approach whereby making plans becomes a part and parcel of everyday life. Ideally, we need to break down barriers from an early age. There’s often openness about death among children but sometimes parents are over protective and close down conversations.
“We can’t ignore the fact that some people are uncomfortable about death. We need to address this in order to spread the word in Cheshire. We’ve got to engage and bring the public with us. We need to enable and empower people to think about these issues in order to live, age, die and grieve well.”
Kathy believes that the public health and wellbeing component of the End of Life Partnership is important to changing knowledge, attitudes and behaviour about life and death matters.
“Death affects health and wellbeing in many ways. This may be as a result of ageing, disability, illness, bereavement and caring for others. The Cheshire Living Well, Dying Well Partnership recognises that living well, ageing well, grieving well and dying well is a public heath issue as well as a health and social care issue that can be best addressed by working together.”
Kathy intends to carry out her duties as a trustee with enthusiasm, commitment and careful decision-making.
“The End of Life Partnership is still a relatively new organisation. Being responsive to our partners, stakeholders and commissioners; engaging with the public and continuing to develop further monitoring and evaluation systems will allow the organisation to demonstrate its positive impact and attract the funding necessary to ensure sustainability.”