More than 80,000 people die each year in care homes – that is 16% of all deaths in England
It is undeniable that most of those residents receive excellent and sympathetic care and there are many inspiring stories of how staff have ensured that older people experience a ‘good death’ in the place where they wish to die.
Yet it is equally undeniable that not everyone receives this level of care. Residents with long-term conditions are much less likely to have their dying needs catered for than those with cancer, for instance. And, sadly, many spend their last days in a hospital ward rather than their care home as they would have wished.
What can be done to improve matters? The End of Life Care Strategy, published this year, proposes a range of ideas to ensure people’s preferences are respected, including more advance care planning, better coordination with the wider palliative care world and a more open culture.
Above all, though, the care home workforce needs training and support. Many staff are eager to care for residents who are terminally ill but often feel they lack the necessary skills and knowledge to do so.
Some staff have received training on how to use end-of-life care tools in care homes through the National End of Life Care Programme, and many more are queuing up to follow in their footsteps.
We now need to ensure this approach permeates the whole sector. It is the very least our older residents deserve.
Cliare Henry, national programme director for the National End of Life Care Programme