Posted: 13 May 2020
Claire Henry, former CEO of the National End of Life Care Programme, is a nationally respected expert on end of life care. She is currently working on palliative care wards during the COVID-19 crisis and shares her thoughts about life on the frontline during Dying Matters Awareness Week.
There is something very pertinent about this year’s Dying Matters Awareness Week theme ‘Dying to be heard’. This theme really captures how we may currently be feeling in the sector and the difficulties we’re experiencing.
Maybe like me, you’re trying to understand the enormity of the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on all aspects of care, mixed in with our own personal situation and feelings. Never has a time affected us more, in both our personal and professional lives.
The impact of COVID-19 on our professional lives is vast, and whatever part of social care you work in we will all have experienced the enormous challenges. This is especially true with the number of deaths we are seeing within our sector with care homes feeling the effects most acutely.
The number and speed of those who have contracted COVID-19 is unprecedented and because of this, managing symptoms has been a challenge for us all. Some of the people you support will also be dying of other conditions.
Families in many instances are not able to physically see their loved ones when they are dying, which has meant that staff have stepped in to fulfil this vital role. Although I have always thought it was a privilege to be with someone when they were dying, it can affect us all in different ways.
The emotional impact will take its toll, not just because staff may be with many more people who are dying, but also in trying to ensure that families have the opportunity to say their goodbyes.
Before COVID-19 these may have been private moments between families, now staff are likely to be present. Having to deal with the increasing number of deaths may at times feel overwhelming. It may bring back memories of the deaths of people who were important to you. It’s essential that you look after yourself during this time.
We all know how important this is, but unless we take care of ourselves this will take its toll on us all. This may trigger a whole range of emotions, so be kind to yourself and get the support you need, remembering that one size does not fit all.
Talk to colleagues, mentors, family, friends, or contact one of the many support organisations such as Our Frontline. You can call or text to get one-to-one support at any time: www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/ourfrontline. CRUSE also have support available: www.cruse.org.uk/get-help.
Take time out to remember those who have died. Due to the changes to funeral arrangements, which are now often limited to close family, it’s now more important than ever that people are supported to remember those who have died.
COVID-19 will be with us for some time to come, so finding what support is right for your own wellbeing is really important.
Please remember to ask for help and be kind to yourself, grief takes many forms. Look out for each other in your workplace, others may be struggling and needing your support. This will enable you all to continue to do the amazing job you do.
We’re supporting Dying Matters Awareness Week. Follow us @skillsforcare #DyingtoBeHeard.
Our new ‘End of life care: support during the COVID-19 pandemic’ resources can support those working with people who are at the end of their life, or whose condition is deteriorating rapidly.