RubinaOver the course of six weeks, older South Asian women from Lancashire took part in discussions at Compassion in Dying’s Tea, Talk and Samosas workshops, talking about planning ahead for future treatment and care.

Consultation was at the heart of the sessions and the group offered some invaluable insights into how we can sensitively and appropriately raise awareness of the importance of planning ahead among Muslims in Lancashire.

Rubina, a participant of the group who works as an interpreter for the NHS and in legal situations, gave a summary of why she felt the sessions were so useful:

Tea, Talk and Samosas sessions are a relaxed, non-formal and sensible approach towards very sensitive issues regarding end of life. The majority of people don’t feel comfortable speaking about these things in formal environments, such as in meetings with professionals.

These sessions will enable BME communities to avail themselves of the opportunity to come out, speak and learn about sensitive and inevitable issues. It will raise awareness, as well as providing the opportunity to learn about rules and regulations. At the same time it will also be a wonderful chance to socialise and an opportunity to learn from each other’s experiences and share good practice. The sessions in Great Harwood were great; personally I have gained knowledge regarding constantly changing laws.

The women discussed the Mental Capacity Act and learned that whilst relatives should be consulted by healthcare professionals about healthcare decisions, unless there is a legal framework in place, such as a Lasting Power of Attorney, they will not have the final say.

Zahida, from Age UK, said that the group felt that ‘the documents you highlighted are very important. However, they are not familiar with their legal rights and expressed concern regarding the future as they feel intergenerational work needs to be carried out and the younger generation need to be informed of such decisions. One lady did emphasise that generally within the Asian Culture, important decision which involves all of the family are made collectively and there was a general consensus that the eldest son/male member within the family takes the lead on such matters.’

The group also discussed court cases and watched the Dying Matters’ film ‘I didn’t know that’, which stimulated discussion around many concerns relating to the end of life and Muslim culture. Family, dignity and privacy were raised as important issues. For example, Rubina shared a story with the group about a time when she was visiting her son in hospital. In the bed next to her son was an elderly gentleman who was not a Muslim. He was taking his last breath and his elderly wife was with him.

There were no other family and the wife was so upset, she wailed. ‘This should never have been allowed to happen’, she told the group.

Every human being should be respected and should have privacy when they take their last breath. They should have had a room of their own. This shouldn’t just be for Muslims. It isn’t about religion. Everyone should be treated with respect.

Mostly in our culture they will have someone, some family member they can talk to after a death, but not everyone has that, not in all cultures. The lady I saw grieving over her husband was just crying out loud and she was in her 80s and she didn’t have anyone. I’m pretty sure she didn’t have anybody to support her. Rubina added that the husband was in a ‘normal ward with normal people; it was horrid’ Another participant said: Working together we learned about what is important to us and what we would want respected if there came a time when we weren’t able to make decisions for ourselves. We discussed our individual morning rituals which for all the women involved prayers.

It was good to see that over 6 weeks, all the women had understood more about their rights and found it useful discussing issues that will face us all.