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Tackling hard conversations about end of life planning

Photo of Paul Turley, Palliative Care Commissioning Lead
Paul Turley,

By Paul Turley, Palliative Care Commissioning Lead, Health and Social Care Board

The issue of death and dying is one which we often, as a society, find difficult to talk about particularly with our frail and elderly loved ones.

Sunday (September 13) marks the launch of Palliative Care Week, facilitated by the All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care (AIIHPC).

Palliative care, in its simplest terms, is about improving the quality of life at the end of life.

It is provided at home, in hospitals, care homes and hospices and it can improve a person’s quality of life throughout the course of their illness.

Palliative care puts the individual at the centre of care and supports their physical, social, psychological and spiritual health needs, however, it requires a broad range of professionals, carers and communities working together to support the person and those closest to them.

The aim of Palliative Care Week is to raise awareness across the island of Ireland about the positive difference good palliative care can make to people with life-limiting conditions, their carers and families.

The focus of the week is for people to become better informed about palliative care and its benefits while helping to remove any stigmas or misconceptions that prevail.

The Health and Social Care Board has been working with the Department of Health and many in the voluntary sector to understand how best to take forward a societal conversation on the topic of death, dying and bereavement.

The key aim of our Palliative Care in Partnership programme is to provide regional direction so that everyone identified as likely to benefit from a palliative care approach can avail of appropriate services.

While COVID19 has brought this into sharp focus for many, future projections of death trends in Northern Ireland also indicate that in the next 25 years we can anticipate an increase of over 30% in the numbers dying annually, due to changes in our population age profile.

Advance Care Planning is the opportunity for people to plan their future care and support, including medical treatment, while they have the capacity to do so.

So as we enter this very important week, let’s all be brave, remove the stigma and have the conversation.