Northern Echo: Helping people take a practical look at death

7 September 2010
The Echo reports that death is being discussed frankly in Teeside thanks to an initiative designed to help people cope during a loved one's last days. Views on the inevitable rite of passage will be fed into Bereavement Information Packs being developed by NHS Tees.

Tackling emotions is covered in "When someone is dying" booklet and the practicalities are included in the "What to do when someone dies" guide, the first time such guides have been created.

Two factsheets by Teesside Hospice, "The Process of Loss and Grief" and "What to tell the children", will also be included in the packs.

Peter Porley, 79, whose wife Doreen died of ovarian cancer two years ago, thought it was vital that the painful topic of death was openly discussed.

Speaking at a meeting of the NHS Tees End of Life focus group yesterday in the Trinity Centre, in Middlesbrough, Mr Porley said: "We have to prepare ourselves for death. No one talks about it until the time arrives, but everybody should be aware of what is going to happen and who to turn to."

Eileen Middleton, manager at Zoe's Place hospice, in Middlesbrough, which offers respite care for babies and children under six, said the reluctance to discuss dying was a very British trait.

"We talk about babies being born and about getting married, but it is a taboo to talk about death," she explained. "It is one of the few certain things that is going to happen to all of us, so we need to help people become comfortable talking about it."

Also at the meeting was Sarit Carlebach, research fellow from Teesside University, in Middlesbrough, who is undertaking a Compassionate Communities project.

Teesside is the first area in the country to implement the plan to use public health approaches to transform end-of life services.

It will discuss ways to facilitate death education, increase awareness in the community of end of life and stimulate public debate about death and dying.

Miss Carlebach said the project was about taking personal responsibility, similar to the ways obesity and exercise are approached.

"It's about what we can do for our neighbour or stranger, these small steps during the end-of-life stages could make all the difference," she added.

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