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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