How specialist training is improving end of life care in care homes

A new Marie Curie training programme responds to calls to move beyond seeing dying as something that only happens at home or in a hospital bed. 

A man wearing an oxygen mask stroking a dog

In July 2016 the government published its response   to last year’s Review of Choice in End of Life Care  . The response outlines seven key areas for improvement to ensure the government meets its commitment to high-quality end of life care. One of these areas is to put in place measures to improve care quality for all across different settings.  

At Marie Curie, we are committed to helping people living with a terminal illness receive the care they want and need, regardless of their place of death. In the past, this debate has typically focussed on dying in hospital compared with dying at home. However, the increase in the number of deaths in care homes means we need to ensure that they are equipped to provide the high-quality care and support that everyone should receive at the end of life. 

Challenging settings 

Providing care for people at the end of their life in care homes can be particularly challenging. Often there are co-morbidities to consider, such as dementia. And there is the added challenge of having to coordinate the multitude of NHS services that can visit to provide care and treatment for residents. 

Training is crucial. Marie Curie is committed to making sure high-quality end of life care is available across settings. For example, in Lothian I’ve been working with with local authorities and various education providers to provide training and education in palliative care for care home and local authority home care staff. This will help ensure that people living with a terminal illness can receive the best possible care and support no matter where they're being looked after.   

Social care workers, in particular, need the right knowledge to have the confidence to support people with end of life care needs in their home or care home. By giving care workers the relevant skills, they can help people to be cared for where they wish to be and reduce inappropriate admissions to hospital. 

Topics covered by the training programme include: recognising symptoms, advance care planning and end of life care support. These can help with some of the uncertainty and decision-making that professionals must make when a resident is approaching the end of life. 

So far, we've had very positive feedback from care workers on the practical things they’ve learned. 

What’s next? 

Given the recent commitment from the government to deliver high-quality end of life care for all, we cannot ignore settings other than the home or hospital where dying also takes place. The government must continue to ensure that in developing best practice for end of life care, it considers all the relevant settings and ensures staff and services feel confident in providing end of life care to a high standard. 

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