Report  and Review of the very successful    END-OF-LIFE SEMINAR held on the 22nd October 2009 at the Institute, Ottery St Mary organised by Ottery St Mary and District Later Life Forum

We are very pleased to present pages articles and letters we have received  about the Seminar which we hope will remind those who had attended – and provide an overview for those who were unable (or not interested) to attend on  the day.

A letter received from one participant at the Seminar: –

the application of compassion …….

WE LIVE UNTIL WE DIE– a truism almost too obvious to state .

The opportunity offered by the ‘Later Life Forum’ to examine the quality of our ‘ end-of-life-living’ and the care in ill-health and frailty that it is possible to receive through the NHS and other agencies was, to say the very least, timely. Four speakers – Dr. David Seamark, Dr. Becky Baines, Dr. Richard Scheffer and Prof. George Giarchi – brought their long experience in palliative medicine, social care and general medical practice before our consideration.

Their very presence, and the nature of the subject itself, allowed those who attended this most informative seminar to reflect quietly upon issues that many of us find uncomfortable and even frightening. The openness and sincerity in the speakers, offering truthful disclosures as well as practical suggestions, was indeed reassuring to all the participants. The day was enhanced by the most efficient organization – and a splendid lunch. For many of us, it was the word ‘compassion’ in providing end-of-life care that meant the most and is, perhaps, the most desirable and hoped for support on our ‘end-of-life-living’  journey.

Dr. Richard Scheffer, one of the four speakers at our End-of-Life Seminar kindly sent the following summary:-

There were four speakers, each of whom brought a different perspective on this important topic. Dr. David Seamark outlined some of the research evidence about end of life and spoke of the importance of involving the GP and the primary care team in the planning and delivery of end of life care at home. Dr. Becky Baines gave a very practical talk about the various services and equipment that are available to care for someone at home to ensure that their dying is comfortable and dignified. Dr. Richard Scheffer spoke of the need for everyone to discuss their wishes for and of life care with their family, friends and GP and suggested writing these down, not just for their place of care but also for treatment options. He explained the possibility of setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 or alternatively making a formal Advance Directive or Living Will. The day ended with an excellent talk by Professor George Giarchi looking at some of the ethical, cultural and philosophical issues around end of life care.

In summary the main points from the day were:

  • Most people want to die in their own home but the current reality is that this can be difficult to achieve.
  • With careful planning it is hoped that more people will be able to be cared for, and to die a comfortable and dignified death, at home.
  • End of life care planning is therefore essential and there is a current Government initiative to raise the profile of such planning and encourage everyone to get involved.
  • The starting point is to discuss preferences about place of care and treatments with the GP and also with family and friends.
  • Once clear about what one wants these preferences should be written down and copies given to family and GP.
  • More formal documents (e.g. an Advance Directive or LPA) can be organized but whatever is done the document should be updated regularly.

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