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Zach Moss 28 January 2014

Balancing the light with the dark

BeckyBlogTalking about death and dying is never easy, and at times during this project our volunteers and staff have had to deal with the full range of human emotions in a day or a week.  There have been times when they have worked with older people who have recently received a diagnosis of a terminal illness, and others where they have had had follow up conversations with older people who’ve wanted to explore death through humour.   It can be tough sometimes delivering the face to face support and the training, but as Vicky puts it
There is no better way to spend time than to empower people to have a voice in the decisions that could be made about them by third parties and when this can be mixed with laughter we are truly lucky to be involved in this work.
In early November Vicky and the volunteers spoke with quite a few older people who had expressed an interest in completing an AD/ LPA. Vicky updated us on one couple
[They] were all set when they arrived, front page of their AD filled out and nearly 2 hours later they left with no more of the form completed but plenty of things for them to think about. None more so than the long discussion about changing one’s mind ‘at the end’ when an extra 3 months or 15 minutes may seem really important suddenly to either party.
Vicky shares her thoughts on that visit and others;
 . . . none of us know how we are going to feel if we find ourselves in a situation where we have received a diagnosis of a terminal illness. What may seem a simple decision (I don’t want to be resuscitated if I have a car accident) becomes much more complex when you investigate the meaning of ‘Quality of Life’. The words of one person ‘I don’t want to be alive just for the sake of being alive’ bring home, I believe, the stark reality of the situation for some people. One must also consider if it is a good time to complete an AD when the person is suffering from depression and life feels bleak.
Our volunteers in East London have taken to working in pairs for follow up visits.  They have found that this is a process which works very well as it enables the Advocates and older person to bounce ideas around between them and to really discuss the finer points of things such as ‘Quality of Life’ .  Vicky has been encouraging this approach for her team, as she has also found that when the Advocates leave the older person they have someone they can de-brief and discuss the case with.
We are in this vocation because we care about older people and what does/ doesn’t happen to them and one must be sure to remember that whatever our ages the only certain thing in life is that End of Life Rights and choices will affect us all. It is, therefore, important to ensure that the people undertaking this work are offered appropriate support to be able to discuss their feelings and emotions.
And it is because of Vicky’s experience and that of the volunteers, we have included in our roll out plans* online forums and Action Learning Sets to provide peer support and also to enable those involved with delivering the project to have the space to learn from each other at a time and place which suits them.  This will be in addition to the usual support systems and process in place within each of our partner organisations, and will help ensure that skills and confidence in discussing choices and rights increases alongside the ability to handle the emotions which come along with this subject. [* We get to find out if we have been successful in our bid to roll out the project in February so watch this space!]

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