“You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life.”
Dame Cicely Saunders, the Founder of the modern hospice movement, knew the importance of person-centred care before it started to gain the real social and political traction that it has today. Too often, professionals see the patient but they fail to see the person. Someone living with dementia or MND or cancer is still a person, they still have hopes and dreams and they still want to enjoy their life. They still have roles, obligations and desires that they need to fulfil.
So too though do the professionals that provide care and support, the politicians that help make policies, the friends and families that are there when others aren’t, and the society that shapes the wider environment. All of these people matter and can make a difference to help improve the lives of people living with a terminal illness. And when they all understand how much they matter and work together to achieve it, it’s possible for amazing things to happen.
We can’t leave our personalities at the door when we slip into our professional role, whatever sector that might be in. Dr Jeremy Keen, Consultant Physician in Palliative Care at the Highland Hospice has spoken publically about this, he thinks that the best therapeutic tool we have is our personality. That’s a notion that I’ve often gone back to and, for me, has shaped my thoughts around how we can make care better in Scotland. When it comes to realistic care, we all matter.
At Marie Curie we champion Dr Catherine Calderwood, Chief Medical Officer for Scotland’s vision for realistic medicine. It’s a vital part of making sure people live and die how they want to. Realistic medicine is all about finding out what matters to people so that the way they are cared for fits their needs and situation. It’s so important and it is the key to good care.
Yet if we only talk to people who need care, we’re missing all of the other things such as people and experiences that shape their world. How can we encourage people at the end of life to have conversations about dying and death when as a society we’re unwilling to have that conversation ourselves? How can we advocate for carers to make sure they support their own health and wellbeing to enable them to continue in their caring role if we don’t have the local policies in place to support them? How can we see death as a normal and natural part of life when the media often portrays death as a failure and something that can always be fought? The only sure thing in life is that we will all die. Sometimes fighting to survive isn’t the only approach and sometimes, in the case of terminal illness, doesn’t reflect the reality of someone’s life.
That’s why Marie Curie has launched You Matter. Based on reflections from an ‘in conversation’ event with Dr Calderwood. In September 2017, this information resource highlights simple things that everyone can do to help make sure everyone receives the realistic care that they deserve. We need to put people back into the equation.
At Marie Curie we’re going to be engaging people around this over the next year. Please take a look at You Matter and tell us what you think. We’d like for you to talk to other people about it and see what they think about it too. We’d like to have a conversation and hear your thoughts. Then we can start working together and make this the priority it deserves to be. Get in touch with us at @MarieCurieSCO #YouMatter.
Susan Lowes is Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Marie Curie.
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