What is it?
The Life>time project is being run from Harlington Hospice as a service offering emotional and empathic support for End of Life patients, their carers and families. This is designed to help Life>time pressures on Palliative Care Teams, District Nurses and WBSOs.
There is general recognition that one of the gaps in EoL provision is emotional support for patients, carers and families. A lack of emotional support, apart from being emotionally distressing can lead to a lack of clarity around the patients’ wishes for their End of Life care which in turn can impact on health care professionals nearer the time of death.
Some health professionals, while experts in their field at delivering specialist clinical care feel ill-prepared or reticent to have EoL conversations. The Life>time worker, trained in counselling has the necessary skills to tackle potentially difficult conversations around death, dying and denial.
Essential to the Life>time project is that the earlier the emotional support is offered, the better the outcomes for all. At diagnosis of EoL inform patient that Life>time support worker will contact them to discuss what their diagnosis means to them and offer support through their illness.
Support is offered around the patient so the Life>time worker will visit the patient where it best suits them (usually the home).
Support here is via a trained counsellor/psychotherapist, although initially it is not counselling or psychotherapy. It is rather using the listening and psychological skills to offer an empathic listener with the therapeutic skills necessary to navigate potentially difficult conversations and feelings around EoL diagnosis and experience. Many patients find the process of EoL extremely emotionally isolating. This is through a natural combination of fears around death and dying as well as feeling the need to protect others from grief and emotional distress.
This service is for both patients and families. It can extend to full pre-bereavement counselling with also the potential for post-bereavement counselling. This counselling can be individual, couples and a family systemic model, depending on the patients’ needs and environment.
At initial assessment there will be a semi-structured interview used to assess where the patient is emotionally with regard to their diagnosis. From here the Life>time worker can begin to determine the emotional resources (internal and external) available to the client. Support is dependent on client need which can be short term high intensity through to fortnightly telephone contact where appropriate.
In assessing the EoL patients’ needs the Life>time support worker can also guide the patient and family in accessing other EoL services where appropriate.
Referrals can be made by contacting Ben Sealy, Life>time Project Coordinator at BSealy@harlingtonhospice.org or by phone at 0208759 0453