Why end of life companionship matters

Why end of life companionship matters

Dr Kathryn Mannix, Retired palliative care doctor and international best-selling author, is speaking at our ‘Why end of life companionship matters: connecting the experience of hospitals, hospices, community, online and faith groups’ conference. She explains here why it’s a conference not to be missed.

So my name is Kathryn Mannix. I am a retired palliative care specialist doctor. And I took early retirement to campaign for better public understanding of dying. And I decided to do that because after working in palliative care for 30 years, I realised that members of the public were still as not knowing and as terrified about dying as they had been when I first came into palliative care 30 years ago. And over that period of time, I worked alongside something more than 10,000 people at the very ends of their lives. So I thought there’s a wisdom here to be shared. And I took early retirement to try and find a way of sharing, it’s one of the projects I engaged with quite early on, in that campaigning was the very beginnings of the art of dying well.

What are you expecting to get out of the conference?
“What I’m really looking forward to getting out of this day is listening to people who already have experience of providing companionship and have models for visiting. But you’ve got all of the safeguards in place, and thinking about how we can extend those sorts of models into this very particular group of members of our society who find themselves at the very end of their lives.

What can delegates expect to hear from you as a headline speaker?
“I’m going to be talking about those tender conversations, and about how important it is that when people are facing the end of their lives, some of the role of their companions is not simply to do things for them, but to be alongside that person, and allow them if they want to do that, and invite them. So they know their companion was willing to do that, to reflect on the things that matter to think about what their life has been about what the triumphs and the joys have been, and yes, maybe also what some of the regrets that there have been, what are the life lessons, what are the wisdoms that they’d like to share?

“Because I’ve observed over my whole medical career, 40 years or more, that towards the very end of life, people do become very reflective. And those are very, very important conversations. But sometimes family and friends close them down because they worry that the conversations will be upsetting. So I’m going to be talking about how do we get alongside people to allow them to reflect, to encourage them to do that, if that’s what they want to do, and how to really embrace the notion of those really deep and tender conversations.

Why do you think this is a conference not to be missed?
“The thing that’s exciting about this conference for me is that it’s bringing together experts from lots of different fields. So there are people who are bringing their palliative and end of life care expertise as clinicians and providers of services. But there are also people who are bringing together expertise in the running of visiting services on a voluntary and companionship basis. And I think that when you put together those sorts of expertise, what happens is that both of those people learn from each other and go away enriched by it. But the actual product of all of that is much more than just adding the expertise that each person brings, they can amplify each other and we end up with a much much richer set of ideas. At the end of it, I’m really excited about this conference.

“I hope lots of people are going to join us for this conference, about companionship at the end of life on the 22nd of September, they can come in person; they can join us online. This is a meeting for everybody. This is about us as individuals and the ways in which we can support people who might be our family and our friends as much as people we might meet because they are our clients or our patients in a more professional setup. And the more of us who bring our ideas and experience together, the better and the more enriched we’re going to be, so please do join us.”

Link to the conference
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The Art of Dying Well