Friday, 22 May 2015

Do doctors talk about dying?

Many people think that having a conversation about dying is reserved for those with cancer. We tend to forget that there are other, often chronic, illness such as heart failure, which also need careful management of the expectations of end-of-life care. Although there have been so many advances in heart disease, people do still die from it.

Since I started work as practice manager for a cardiologist, I have had the privilege to learn about some of the patients' stories. These patients often face lengthy illnesses, frequent hospital visits and invasive procedures. Sometimes, the heart is too damaged and nothing more can be done.

The specialist I work for feels strongly that patients and their families should have as much time as possible to come to terms with the fact that they are entering the last months of life. It isn't always possible to give an exact time scale, which is why the conversation must be  sensitively timed. He also tells patients that he speaks from personal experience, because until you have experienced the loss of someone very close to you, you cannot possibly understand the turmoil of emotions that goes with planning for the end of someone's life.

Enlightened families ask questions about how to access extra care, register a do not resuscitate order, and make plans for the smooth handling of their affairs. If your doctor (specialist or GP) isn't having that conversation with you and your family, please make sure you initiate it, because doctors like the rest of us, feel nervous talking about death. After all, they studied medicine to preserve life.

A conversation about dying shouldn't be about the end, it is about planning for the end. In many cases, there is still plenty of living to do, and families should strive to do this, laying down memories for the future.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Who do you turn to when your Mum is dying?

I have very mixed feelings about the support we were offered towards the end of Mom's life. Everyone was lovely and kind to Mom, but nobody would talk about her dying. Even the Macmillan nurse wouldn't broach the subject because she said that Mom wasn't ready to talk about it. I remember that day very clearly. Even I could see that Mom had weeks to live, the tumours were growing out her back, they had all but blinded her and just about paralysed her. The community nurses came and went, leaving Dad to do most things. The GP cried a lot. 

I had to do something so I gave up my job and went in search of a conversation - about dying. I found it on the internet, with strangers, who having gone through the painful loss of a loved one, wanted to, perhaps needed to, share their experiences.

Day by day that late summer, as I sat with Mom, we talked about her choices.  I asked Mom to think about where she wanted to die. She wanted to be at home so we invited the GP to complete a Do Not Resuscitate form for her file. This would stop the paramedics from taking Mom to hospital, should Dad panic in the middle of the night.

Mom didn't want to go in to hospice, so the District Nurse at the GP surgery helped us to obtain a hospital bed, commode, portable oxygen and carers to assist with bathing and dressing. We made Mom comfortable at home and settled into a routine.

I noticed little things in the last week of Mom's life. Tinges of blue in her fingers and toes, dry skin, a darkness behind her eyes. I urged the Community Nurse who called on us that morning to talk to Dad, who was still in denial. As she went through the Liverpool Care Pathway with him, the horror began to sink in. I think he must have had a quiet word with Mom later that day, a word between lovers, saying good-bye. Mom's death came peacefully not long after that.

In the days that followed, I held Dad's hand as we talked about Mom's funeral wishes. She had been very clear with me about the service, the hymns and readings, and had even written a poem.

It isn't easy facing death, but it does help to talk about it. I hope that by sharing our experience, we might be able to help someone else.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Confessions of a lapsed blogger

It's been a while. I've had stuff going on that just isn't suitable for everyday blogging. Not bad stuff or personal stuff, but stuff that probably isn't of any interest to anyone else. My mother always told me that if I didn't have anything nice to say I shouldn't say it at all. 

I'm not sure that I totally agree with her, but she's dead now, and well, it's one of those things I like to remember about her.

So, what has been going on? Since January (well OK mid-December but that was only two days), we have had the builders in. Anyone who has ever done this will know that the whole process, from architect through planning permission to lying in your new bath, is fraught with emotion. Fragile egos, diva strops and broken nails - and that was just the plumber!

We've had some excellent people working here, and some stinkers too. In fact, one of the stinkers still owes me half a bathroom suite so I'm not naming and shaming just yet. One of the pitfalls of ordering from an overpriced independent retailer.

I do have a long snagging list (Mr B thought it was a 'shagging' list), but as the renovation project draws to a close, the Boxers and I sigh with pleasure at the thought of having our house back, clean and quiet, peaceful and tidy. Bliss!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015


Zozpops, Zozpants, Zozla, Zoppydo. All happy names for the delightful Zozi Boxer dog. Never before has one dog had so many nicknames. 

They go so well with No! Stop! Down! Leave!

Zozi's response to verbal commands depends largely on whether or not she believes there is a tasty treat in your fist. But don't hold on to it for too long, or she might lick you with her teeth. (This isn't as bad as it sounds).

And after all the play is done, the Zed likes nothing better than curl up on your lap on the big leather sofa, and zzzzzz away.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The Godalming Bazaar Big Easter Event - Saturday 28th March

Jill Spain looks forward to welcoming you to this Saturday's Godalming Easter Bazaar. Twenty stallholders will be selling a wide range of gifts and handmade work.  

The Chiddingfold Flute Group will be playing at 2.00 pm.  One stall holder is running a painting competition for children and another one is holding a 'decorate your own biscuit' workshop at her stall.  

The Town Crier will be out and about in Godalming, promoting the event for us as usual.  

Refreshments include tea, coffee, hot chocolate, orange juice and homemade cakes.

Entrance is free and all are welcome.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Time flies when you're

I wouldn't call this year fun. It hasn't been bad, just busy. With interludes of fun. I don't suppose it helped that building work began on our extension in the darkest days of winter. That there have been days of mud and noise and disruption. Frozen fingers, endless cups of coffee, and more questions for the architect than I ever thought possible.

I am, however, maintaining my zen. The hens are laying again. The dogs get on well with the builders. The spring bulbs are out and the sun is shining.

Mr B ran the Marrakech marathon in a personal best time. We stole away for a few days of couple-time in Dubai. We have managed a family crisis, a serious bout of man-flu and a dramatic visit to the vet for two excitable Boxer dogs.

We have made time for friends and family. Going out with friends gives us a break from talking about the building work! And soon, we will be able to have friends round to our home, not to a building site.

The work we do for the ICDC Surrey support group is taking up quite a bit of time, as we prepare for the annual education day. Despite repeated requests for volunteers, maintaining the website and social media still falls to me, and I worry that I'm not doing enough.

The practice is still evolving and demands my attention on most days. Happily, our secretary is settled in her new home and so calm has been restored. Thank goodness the patients are so understanding.

My own work is taking a back seat. No writing for some time, and certainly no networking or business planning. Even my hobbies have been neglected. Very little photography, painting or sculpting.

The recent spring-like weather has prompted me to sort out the solar lights for the garden, and these do cheer me up, even if I don't have much time to garden. I have been looking after my compost heaps over the winter and I can't wait to use the lovely rich compost for my tender spring garden.

I'm getting ahead of myself. There is a bit of winter yet to come. So I'll light the fire and snuggle down with the Boxer dogs. That'll be fun.