As 2014 approaches (only 12hrs to go as I type this!) I am reflecting on Vicky and Verena’s achievements and thinking about the impact the project is having in East London.  As many regular readers of our blog will know we had a slow start but since the summer, thanks to Verena, Vicky and our project volunteers, the project has been going incredibly well.  Of course there are days when conversations or events don’t go quite as planned, but we see these as opportunities to learn. Overall the feedback and evaluation is showing just how much our support and specialist training is needed.  A carer recently shared with us the impact the project had on them and the care they provide;

 “he had just been diagnosed with a terminal illness as there was no more treatment available. I thought this person would be perfect for an advanced decisions he was a diligent note taker when talking to the doctors and nurses. An advanced decision gave him that last chance to have control over his life, gave him that last bit of control”

This carer was one of many who has benefited from the project.  By end November 2013 – 234 older people had attended talks or been visited by a befriender, a further 1815 had received information on the project via newsletters or mailshots and 106 older people have sat down with an advocate and been able to discuss end of life issues and plan for life’s final transition.  Of these 5 have completed an Advance Decision, and whilst the numbers for completing the paperwork is small the impact on those beneficiaries has been huge – one older person has shared;

“It’s put a dot under all my…‘Do I have to tell someone this or do I have to tell someone that?… It’s all going to be in one spot basically and I don’t have to particularly worry about it.”

We have also trained 192 community stakeholders and 40 volunteers.  The interim report from our external evaluators has found for community organisations these sessions have been  important in increasing people’s knowledge and awareness:

“It was an eye-opener for all of us. The majority of the staff didn’t know about it – and it got us thinking this is something that maybe we can do, even for ourselves.”  And for the NHS staff it is giving them the reassurance that they can refer patients on “Now with the ELRA project, we’re able to signpost people on and we don’t have to sit down and write the documents with people. A lot of staff get bogged down in the legal ins and outs of LPAs. I wouldn’t feel confident answering questions about some of the legalities, whereas the ELRA project can, and does offer specialist information and advice. It’s very important for staff to feel confident to bring up the conversation – but I don’t think they should all have the legal expertise”

As well as the face to face support for older people, the talks and the training we have also had numerous meetings with NHS and community organisations discussing the project and exploring opportunities for how we can work together in the future.  We ‘ve met and supported other Silver Dreams, and of course had regular contact with our funders – The Big Lottery.  It has been a busy but fulfilling year, and we are looking forward to continuing to work with Age UK East London, our wonderful project volunteers and our new partners in the new year.  Together we will continue to learn, to raise awareness of end of life rights and choices, and support & involve older people in making decisions about their lives.

And that reminds me . . . the project’s new name.  Following the consultation with care professionals, volunteers and older people across England and our online survey – the most popular name was My Life, My Decision Big thank you to everyone who participated – we think this is a great project name and really reflects what the Flagship project aims to do.

Happy New Year to our readers and everyone involved with the project!