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Blog

One of our aims is to promote the lively exchange of news, views and experiences amongst our members.

Below are a selection of blogs written by our members along with some of the latest postings from others across the palliative care and wider social work field.

If you’d like to submit a blog post then please send it through to secretary@apcsw.org.uk

 
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Blog from 15th World Congress of the EAPC, Madrid, Spain

Written by Pam Firth – APCSW member and Joint Chair of the EAPC task force on Palliative Care Social Work.

Nearly 3000 delegates from 60 countries gathered in Madrid, Spain, for the opening of the 15th World Congress of the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) on May 18.

The theme was: Progressing Palliative Care, and it reflects the growing recognition of the importance of palliative care in Europe and around the world.

The first EAPC congress I attended was in London and took place just after Princess Diana died. The day hospice I worked for bought one ticket/registration and we shared it between myself and the Macmillan team half a day each but. I was lucky enough to go for the whole of the first day. As we were in Westminster Hall many people took time out to visit the funeral flowers at Kensington Palace.

I remember being amazed that Frances Sheldon, the first UK social worker EAPC board member and joint organizer of the conference, got the audience of a 1000 people to introduce themselves to their neighbors. In those days, it was mainly social workers who trained interactively and to do this at the beginning was bold. Dame Cecily Saunders was there and surrounded by autograph hunters.

Since that congress, I have attended every biannual congress, for eight years as a board member of the EAPC and latterly representing a research team at Southampton University So, lots of lovely memories and this year it was great to catch up with colleagues and friends from all over the world.

David Oliviere followed Frances Sheldon as a board member and was on the board for four years. He and I arranged the first meeting for social workers at the conference in Geneva. It consisted of David myself Sean Hughes and a Dutch, Swedish and German Social Worker. We have come a long way since then. A task force was formed and Sean, David and I wrote a white paper which was published by the EAPC in 2013/4.

This year the task force made a successful bid to run a parallel session on palliative care social work. We were thrilled to ask three social workers from across Europe to present papers. The first paper presented by Carla Reigada from Portugal was looking at the Barriers and Opportunities to implement Social Work practices in Europe. Inger Benkel from Sweden spoke about her doctorate research on Parents Experience of When an Adult Child is Seriously Ill. Sally Paul was the last speaker to an audience of over 100 people. She presented a paper Developing Capacity in End of Life and Bereavement Care in Hospices and Schools. This was followed by a wide-ranging discussion.

The task force will be presenting the end results of the survey of the roles of palliative care social workers in Europe but Dr. Maria Wasner presented the interim findings.

I want to conclude with some general observations about the congress the number of delegates has increased in the last two years. There were many people from South America because of the links with Spain. There were less sessions focusing on practical nursing issues such as constipation and more about disenfranchised groups such as the homeless, LBGT issues and palliative care for people with a learning disability and migrants. I heard much more about social issues but sadly not many research papers from social workers. It was good to see posters from Marie Price Nicola Holdcroft and several from the team in Brasov Romania. I was pleased to meet the only French palliative care social worker who completed our survey.

The congress was friendly well organized and the venue was interesting particularly as part of it was a giant car supermarket. It was lovely to be in Madrid and to have a chance to visit some major pieces of art such Picasso’s Guernica.

I hope that other social workers will send in abstracts for the 16th World congress in Berlin in 2019 Always happy to help with the construction.

To download a pdf version of this blog please click link below

EAPC Congress blog – Pam Firth. APCSW member and Joint Chair of the EAPC task force on Palliative Care Social Work

 
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Dilemmas in arranging Public Health Funerals

Written by Wendy Ashton – Hospice Social Worker, Eden Valley Hospice, Carlisle.

This week I feel I have been challenged as a social worker and as an advocate. A client nearing end of life came into the Hospice and had no ‘known/contactable’ NOK. He did not have a will. He did not have a funeral paid for or a payment plan. He did not have enough money to pay for a funeral.

He also informed me that he was ‘scared of being buried alive’ and really wanted to be cremated.

Main points:

– No NOK to take responsibility for funeral. Friend who was first point of contact could not pay for the funeral.

– It is ‘usual’ procedure to bury people on a Public Health funeral.

– No will to state ‘cremation’ preference.

– Bank holiday weekend was imminent.

After a lengthy chat with the client I spoke to the council and wrote a plan for the ward on who to contact if he were to die ‘out of hours’.

The client understood the rules re: burials but was still worried about it. He accepted this was going to happen and slowly deteriorated.

I felt that it was unfair that he should not get his dying wish because he does not have NOK to consent to a cremation.

We looked at him writing a will. But these need an executor to organise affairs and the funeral and he did not want his friend to do this.

We looked at his finances to see if we could scrape together enough to pay for a basic cremation but by this time he was too ill.

After another call to the crematorium and to the Public Health Funeral coordinator they came back to say that if he signed a witnessed letter to say he really wanted cremated they would follow his wishes. Hooray….a step forward. I popped down the ward but he was heavily sedated and end of life.

Sometimes the boat sails too early and you miss it. I was so fed up. However, the client has been on a bit of a rollercoaster so in the hope that he would be more responsive the next morning (Sat) I left the letter. It was then the start of my Bank Holiday weekend.

On my return 4 days later the client had died. He had been well enough to sign the letter though and it was witnessed by a Dr and staff on the ward. The correct procedures had been followed and he was at the right undertakers and the documents were on their way to the coordinator at the council.

Perseverance paid off.

To download a pdf version of this blog please click link below

Dilemmas in arranging Public Health Funerals – blog

 
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World Social Work Day and Boot Out Austerity

Written by Kevin Chesters, Douglas Macmillan Hospice, Midlands Representative, APCSW

I first came across the celebration of World Social Work Day (WSWD) last year but hadn’t done anything to mark the event then. This year though at a local authority third sector consultation event I ran into a friend and colleague Bridgett Bennett who I used to work with. She was organising an event to celebrate the day and asked if I would like to be involved. I said I yes and that I would host a stand at the event to showcase palliative care social work and the work the social work team at our hospice does. I also agreed to get in touch with the social workers in our local children’s hospice to get the perspective of palliative care social work with adults and children. I thought that as well as celebrating the event and catching up with some old social work friends it would be another good opportunity to keep on track with our aims I spoke about in my first APCSW blog which was to keep helpful relations with social work colleagues in statutory services.

The day totally surpassed my expectations. There was really good representation from across the whole spectrum of social work practice in the local authority. One stand included information about the worldwide perspective of social work practice. This was presented in a really interesting way and there was a quiz about the differences and things influencing social workers practice in other countries that to be honest had me scratching my head and asking for the answers, all good fun though. The event opened up to the community in the afternoon and members of the public came into view the stands and talk to social workers and other people working in the health and social care sector. The theme of the importance of valuing community and environmental sensitivity were woven throughout. This was really highlighted by a performance group called Masque whose performers have learning disabilities. They delivered a performance of dance and song which spoke about the importance of communities being inclusive and accepting of each other.

When thinking about the stand to showcase palliative care social work I was…

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WSWD and Boot It Out Blog – Kevin Chesters

 
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Special Days

Written by Wendy Ashton, Eden Valley Hospice

Every day special memories are created at the hospice. From providing people with time to spend with family and friends to helping children access Jigsaw for support and fun, each special memory will stay with the family forever.

As Palliative care social workers here we co ordinate and organise these with the team. Here are some memories we have helped to create at Eden Valley Hospice and Jigsaw.

Parties and Occasions

We recognise that a stay at the hospice may mean patients and their families miss out on special occasions such as birthdays, Christmas etc. Here at Eden Valley Hospice we try to help the patients and the families and friends still celebrate.

In November we held a small firework display in the grounds and a family party with gingerbread and sparkles. All the rooms on the in-patient unit look out onto the garden and chairs or beds were pushed to the doors so everyone could enjoy the firework display.

At Christmas patients find it difficult to go shopping for presents. The hospice is very lucky to have a fantastic community and gifts are donated throughout the festive season. We were able to hand out some adorable cuddly bears along with selection boxes to patients and their families.

One patient told me it was nice to give the grandchildren a gift from him and not one his children had to buy for him to give.

Another patient said her child sought comfort from cuddling up the bear in bed with her.

Special Visitors

We love to welcome all visitors to the hospice, and also make someone’s special day by a visit.

I link with the Marketing and fundraising team a lot as they have links and contacts for all sorts of events and themes.Every day special memories are created at the hospice. From providing people with time to spend with family and friends to helping children access Jigsaw for support and fun, each special memory will stay with the family forever.

As Palliative care social workers here we co ordinate and organise these with the team. Here are some memories we have helped to create at Eden Valley Hospice and Jigsaw.

Parties and Occasions

We recognise that a stay at the hospice may mean patients and their families miss out on special occasions such as ….

….TO READ MORE CLICK BELOW

Special Days Blog – Wendy Ashton

 
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Pat’s perspective on Palliative Care – “You’re allowed to just be the person you are”

Written by Sally Mercer,  St Christopher’s Hospice

As an English Literature student back in the 90’s, I was used to reading about the lives of people at various stages throughout their lives. I didn’t realise then that nearly 20 years later, as a Palliative Care Social Worker, narrative would continue to be central to my practice. My daily work continues to be dedicated to listening to the personal stories of people, and those important to them, at the end of life.

However, much of my work is done in isolation – I work in a community team where I am regularly visiting people in their own homes. Sometimes I meet with the person individually, or with them and those important to them, but the stories and their experiences usually don’t go any further than a discussion with colleagues in a meeting, or at their desk. People’s experience of palliative care is often not discussed, captured or shared outside of the palliative care world – which denies us the ability to develop a collective understanding – in both social work and society as a whole – about what people and their families value at this most important of life stages.

With this in mind, I approached Pat – a man in his 70’s who I have been visiting at home for the last 18 months. My visits with Pat have been in turn frustrating, funny, sad, and emotional. I have supported Pat and his wife in making the heart-breaking decision for her to move into a nursing home, and have worked alongside Pat to manage the ongoing mental and emotional impact of his deteriorating health. Pat had always said that he wanted his experience to be used to help others, and with this in mind we agreed that I’d interview him, and write this article to highlight his experience of palliative care.

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Pat’s Perspective on Palliative Care Blog