Dying Matters Awareness Week

This week is Dying Matters Awareness week, running from 11th to the 17th of May. This year's theme is "Dying to be Heard".

In the middle of the coronavirus crisis, we attach this letter from the winners of the Dundas Medal 2019 – Jules Lewis [and her team] working at The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital, England.

I think as a nurse, what sits uncomfortably with me, is not being able to offer the full swan scheme resources to the dying person and family. The Swan scheme is our end of life and bereavement care programme. [1] It includes our lovely memory boxes with contents, swan chairs, mood lights and CD player. We cannot offer any of these to our patients or their families during Covid19, as these items would not cope with professional healthcare cleaning requirements.

Things we have been able to do are: Taste for Pleasure[2] and locks of hair – we put the lock of hair into a sealed bag with instructions not to open for seven days. I have worn a photo of myself on my PPE to show people what I look like normally – the person behind the mask; the hearts of kindness[3] and virtual visits using iPads and iPhones to keep family informed. We have allowed visitors to be with patients who are dying, as long as they wear PPE. ITU has been more challenging due to aerosol procedures, so virtual visits have been helpful.

I have been doing a lot of staff support debriefings, which have been really helpful. I am sure we will need to continue this as we are dealing with many more deaths. Staff not only have these worries at work but also have worries at home with children being off school, other family members off work, and not being able to see family and friends.

Staff support is paramount for us now and in the future.

We are trying so hard to sit with patients if their family are unable to visit – as our volunteers are not able to support us at this time. No one should die alone

Jules Lewis
End of Life Care Facilitator / Lead Nurse

Further information

References and footnotes

  1. Jules Lewis, Jules Lock, Roy Lilley (Spring 2020). Bereavement Management in a Time of Crisis, booklet containing advice, ideas, questions for discussion and guidance on end-of-life care.

  2. Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust Wins National Award | The Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh, article published 11 Feb 2020.

  3. Knitted kindness hearts to be gifted to patients and their families | The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital, article published