Last week I was delighted to be invited to speak at Knowledge Day, a staff wellbeing day, with a focus on end of life care for residents, at PJ Care in Milton Keynes. I have worked closely with this amazing company since 2017, and am always grateful for the welcome they give me, and the openness with which they listen to my offerings. I value hugely the professional care they give their residents, often young people with life-limiting illness, with prognoses that may stretch for a long time. Their attention to individualised care is exemplary, and it always feels like a privilege to be included as part of the team.
I was invited in to talk about the holistic side of end of life care, and I wanted to bring in the aspect that I believe we all have “wisdom within.” Throughout any care environment these days, our laws dictate that there are protocols to be followed for just about any situation you can think of, and while the intention is that of actions being in everyone’s best interests, it seems to me that there is becoming less and less space for stepping back, observing and perhaps asking the gentle question, “What would love do here?” I would never advocate flouting any rules, but I wanted to posit the idea that sometimes there’s a place for “wisdom within” too. There simply isn’t a “tick box” answer to every situation.
I’ve previously quoted from the Lancet report on their Commission on the Value of Death, (key messages on page 2) and I referenced it again last week. Health care is now the context in which most people encounter death, and families are pushed to the margins, meaning that the rich wisdom surrounding dying is slowly being eroded. They exhort us to include families again, and that was part of my message – that we can be ambassadors, do our own work around death and dying, and thus be better equipped to support our residents and families. A simple description of what is likely to happen can bring enormous comfort to families who have no idea and are full of fear. In fact one of my favourite resources is a video by Kathryn Mannix, which was shown at the beginning of the day, describing the quiet progression of a normal death.
Judging by the attention in the room, these wonderful people who work at PJ Care knew deep in themselves that this resonates. The image above is one small tool – giving ideas of how to create a familiar and comforting “nest” for someone at the end of life…rather like an animal’s lair where they go to breathe their last.
And my favourite part of the talk? Getting 30 people at once to consent to touch and be touched, in an interactive couple of minutes where I talked them through the basics of firstly energetically entering someone’s space in a safe (ie with consent), and loving way, to Resting Hands, to Healthy Touch. The power of touch, we have to reclaim it… Magical.
Thank you again PJ Care ♥ you are all amazing.