One of the sad and hard aspects of working in a care home environment is that people die. Because people are coming into care at the end of their lives, they are staying with us for a shorter period of time than was the case a generation ago. Death is not a way of life but certainly in the care home environment it is an inevitability.
One of the strange side effects of people living longer and dying at a greater age is that in many cases people’s friends, relatives and indeed sometimes children pre-decease them – meaning that when the person dies well into their 90s there is sometimes nobody to remember and nobody to say kaddish. It is a truism to say that this is a heartbreaking thought – but it is a reality and an inevitable consequence of increased longevity. Sometimes people die and they have no surviving family and no surviving friends. They live to say 95 years and there is nobody left to remember. That fact epitomises the transience of life – 95 years of living, of happiness, sadness and then at the end nobody left to remember and nobody left to hang on to these memories.
I am not attempting – albeit I have probably succeeded, in trying to depress you my reader(s). Suffice to say I am merely trying to make (some might say labour) the point that this is a new reality. This therefore gives enormous impetus to those of us running and working in care homes to ensure that we offer our residents the very highest quality of life in their latter years. That quality can be measured in terms of tangible "hands on" care, the physical environment, the quality of 1-2-1 staff and volunteer interaction with our residents, entertainments, activities, stimulation – even for the very frail and those living with severe dementia.
One of the highlights of our Passover festivities this year was the Seder activity which we ran in that part of Nightingale House where the most frail of our residents are living and those with very severe dementia. It is moving to see the reactions that our residents have to an activity which most of them would have celebrated every year of their very lengthy lives. Pesach is a family time and at Nightingale House and Hammerson House we have become “the family” or certainly part of the extended family. It is gratifying to see the enormous amount of pleasure which is derived by so many of our residents in this way.
One thinks about the global economy, nuclear stand-offs between North Korea and the West and the incredible work being done by the Large Haldron Collider. This small anecdote about the Seder nights may not seem significant – but believe me, it is! That’s why we must always strive, whatever the challenges and/or difficulties to provide the very best quality of life for all of our residents, all of the time. It’s a lofty ambition. But it is one that we would certainly all want to experience ourselves and something we must never lose sight of