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'Everyone in Ireland deserves to have a good death'

The Irish Hospice Foundation has said investing in bereavement services and end-of-life care will benefit society as a whole.

003_Hospice_Report Angela Edghill (far right), Orla Keegan (far left), and Marie Lynch of the IHF Source: Paul Sherwood

THE HOSPICE FOUNDATION (IHF) has called on the government to reaffirm its commitment to issues surrounding bereavement, and palliative and end-of life care.

At their pre-Budget submission briefing in Dublin yesterday, the IHF spoke about the need to develop a national strategy in this area, including both health and non-health areas of public policy.

In a statement, the IHF said: “Death is an inevitable and universal experience – a fact of life. While most people will experience ‘death denial’, it is not appropriate that the State adopts the same attitude.”

The foundation said dying, death and bereavement present a number of challenges across health and other services, meaning “a whole society approach is essential”.

The IHF stated that bereavement was “sadly” forgotten in the recently published Sláintecare report, which set out a 10-year plan to reform healthcare in Ireland.

The foundation said grief is “the common ground on which we all stand” and noted that in the next 10 years:

  • Almost 300,000 people will die in Ireland
  • Over 3,000 of those deaths will be of children
  • Over 240,000 will be of people over 65 years of age
  • Almost three million people will be bereaved and up to 150,000 of these will encounter significant difficulties or ‘complicated grief’

The document continues: “If current trends continue, 5% of grieving people will require specialist mental health services or psychological intervention.

Given this evidence, it is essential that the healthcare system meets the needs of people facing dying, death and bereavement and ensures that everyone gets equal access to good care.

“By careful planning, we can make the best use of the substantial funds that we directly and indirectly invest in the care of the dying and the bereaved, and, crucially, that this planning includes helping people to live well until they die.”

Bereavement grant 

Orla Keegan, the IHF’s Head of Education, Research and Bereavement, said: “The implications of bereavement stretch across our society – all ages, all circumstances, all cultures. The cost of building caring communities is a small investment for long-term gains.

“Amongst the calls being made by the Irish Hospice Foundation is one for research to uncover the financial impact of loss which will help to reframe the bereavement grant for future generations. Support for joint-working by the voluntary sector in children’s and adult bereavement care is also identified as a primary need.

Everyone in Ireland deserves to have a good death. For this to happen, improvements are needed in primary care, residential care and in hospital settings.

The IHF said these improvements “need to specifically focus resources and expertise available outside traditional working hours as well as the development of specialist palliative care in the midlands and northeast”.

From a public health perspective, the IHF has recommended that the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015 is fully commenced this year.

The foundation also wants the government to:

  • Ensure everyone has access to the best care at end-of-life and in bereavement through a political and public policy commitment to a strategic, responsive, population-wide approach to end of life issues
  • Ensure the healthcare system delivers best palliative, end-of-life and bereavement care in all care settings

Angela Edghill, the IHF’s Advocacy and Public Engagement Manager, prepared the pre-Budget submission.

She noted that the 2016 Programme for a Partnership Government “seeks to ensure that we have an Ireland that looks after its people from the time they come into the world to the time they leave” and promises investment in end-of-life care at all life stages.

In some cases, Edghill said the challenge is “to simply join the dots – to enable, encourage, mainstream and replicate good practice and innovation across the whole of government and community areas”.

You can read the IHF’s full pre-Budget submission here

Read: ‘They simply can’t afford it’: Older people being priced out of nursing homes

Read: ‘The sense of relief is immense’: Homes of 30 vulnerable men saved in Greystones

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