by | Thursday, May 9th, 2019 | News

Sharon King is a woman on a mission to get people talking about death and dying.

It’s not that she’s morbid. She just takes her role as Livewell Southwest’s Palliative and End of Life Lead really seriously, because, as she says, death is something that affects us all, without fail.

A nurse for many years, Sharon has lots of experience of caring for people in the community, where most end of life care is provided.

Livewell Southwest is the social enterprise which provides Plymouth’s community health and care services, and last year its nursing teams cared for 1,499 people at the end of their life. Of those, 50 were cared for in the community hospitals, and the rest were able to die at home with nursing support, as they wished.

Enabling people to have a say in what happens to them as they are dying is, according to Sharon, why it’s important that we break down the taboos that have built up about the subject of death.

“Dying is an inevitable outcome for us all, but we often lack skills or confidence in supporting ourselves and those we love when planning for it. We plan for births and weddings, and talk about our expectations and what we want, and death should be the same.

“Having an advance plan for where you would like to die and the kind of care you want as you die means other people don’t have to make those decisions about you when the time comes. It’s the same with talking to your family about what kind of funeral you want, the music and what you want to happen to your remains. Having open and honest conversations and planning helps everyone in the end.”

Sharon’s passion for caring for people who are nearing the end of their life developed when she worked in community nursing.

“There is something very moving about enabling them to be in a place that they want to be, and supporting their families through this personal time.

“It is the fact that we have just one chance to get it right when we are caring for people approaching the end of life that has led me to where I am today. It has given me a determination to improve the quality of palliative and end of life care for our patients, their families and communities and to support our colleagues in providing this care.”

Sharon is running sessions to help Livewell nursing and social care colleagues increase their skills and confidence to talk about dying, so they can do more to support people who are grieving or caring for a loved one who is dying. And through a series of informal public events called ‘Dying to Talk About It’ she’s spreading the word to the wider community.

“It’s not just about the person who is dying and their family. We all have colleagues, friends, neighbours, who are going through this, or who are grieving, and we often choose to say nothing rather than say the ‘wrong thing’. Let’s change that.”

Sharon and Livewell colleagues are holding a series of public information events to mark Dying Matters Awareness Week, May 13 – 19. The theme this year is Are We Ready?

Sharon said: “We’ll be spending the week spreading the message to as many people as possible. Are We Ready to help others get their affairs in order? Are We Ready to help a person we know who are caring for someone who is dying? Are We Ready to support someone who is grieving? Are We Ready to talk about it?”

Sharon and the team are raising awareness of the need to talk about and prepare for end of life during Dying Matters Week next week with information stands and time to chat as follows:

 

  • Plymouth – Tesco Transit Way: Wednesday, May 15
  • Tesco Tavistock: Thursday, May 16
  • Kingsbridge – Morrisons: Friday, May 17

 

Read more about Dying Matters week, and the nurses’ story, here.
Read more about Dying Matters week, via a case study, here.

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