Health and social services should openly talk about end of life care and the wishes of patients – says Healthwatch Somerset volunteer Steve.
Steve, from Long Load near Somerton, is encouraging others to give feedback about end of life care to Healthwatch Somerset as part of Dying Matters awareness week (13-19 May*).
His own brother Geoff had a positive experience with end of life care and Steve thinks this should be modelled across the county.
He said: “In his final days, Geoff requested to die at home. This was arranged, and a bed and the other things were delivered to his home and set up for him. A few days later he died as he wished at home with his children around him.”
Steve’s brother Geoff was the middle of three children and after leaving school he served in their father’s regiment – the Scots Guards – and then spent the majority of his army life in and around Surrey.
While in the army he met Shirley, a hairdresser who was to become his wife and the mother of Jackie and Paul their two children. Long before his army contract was up he bought himself out and moved to Preston, his home town. After working in the building industry for a while he went to work for British Leyland as a security guard until he retired.
Sadly, Shirley died from cancer in the 1990s. Steve said: “Geoff was the heart and soul of the party and was a member of many ex service groups and local Masonic Lodges. As he grew older his health deteriorated, he walked with a stick and travelled around on a mobility scooter. He also lived basically in two rooms of his house. He once explained to me that he couldn’t climb the stairs, so he had a bathroom built onto his living room.
“He was a very secretive person and didn’t tell anyone what kind of illness he had but it is understood that he had more than one form of cancer. His family rallied round him and his granddaughter came to live with him and take care of him.
“About a week before he died, I received a telephone call from his son, Paul, who told me that his dad had cancer and only about a week to live. Geoff hated hospitals and didn’t want to die in one, he wanted to die at home with his two children with him as he passed away.
“Preston Royal Infirmary pulled out all the stops to comply with his wishes. On the following Monday a hospital bed and all the things that went with it was delivered to his home and at 6pm that night Geoff was in the bed in his own home with his children gathered around him.
“Five days later as the doctors had predicted Geoff died holding the hands off his two children.”
Emily Taylor, Healthwatch Somerset Manager, said: “We appreciate end of life care can be a hard subject to talk about, which is why any insight patients and relatives can give will help make services better for others in the future.
“People like Steve’s brother Geoff often receive excellent end of life care. Healthwatch Somerset is here to listen to the views of local people on health and social care services whether that’s good or not so good, so we can present these views to the decision-making organisations in the county which have the power to make change happen.”
* Dying Matters is a coalition of organisations which aims to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and to make plans for the end of life.