• Death study 18 March 2019 | View comments

  • 18th March 2019 | By David Jolley

    I have been pleased to contribute to training days organised by Wigan and Leigh Hospice over the past five years. The hospice has pioneered and developed a scheme of extended hospice/palliative care to nursing homes in the area. This brings the skills and wisdom of the hospice to a wider community of people as they approach death. Care Homes are the most common site of death for people with a diagnosis of dementia so that although not exclusively for people with dementia, this scheme is particularly beneficial to individuals living their last months with dementia and their families – and the staff of the care homes. It is a model which is gaining more support across the country than that which we explored – a specialist dementia service – from Willow Wood Hospice in Ashton under Lyne. There are virtues in both. An amalgam of best practices is entirely feasible and may be the future. In addition to the benefits in improving the experience of last months for all parties, these schemes reduce wasteful and inappropriate use of acute hospital beds, investigations and futile and inappropriate treatment.

    This week’s session was notable for the inclusion of a presentation by Professor Peter Fenwick a retired Neuropsychiatrist. I met him many years ago when he contributed to a course on EEGs (Electro-encephalograms) at the Institutes of Psychiatry and Neurology in London. In the way of things I had imagined his life being confined to the EEG laboratory and the study of wiggly lines generated by the electrical activity of the brain as transmitted through the skull and its coverings. In recent years, he and his wife and other researchers, have been studying aspects of the experiences of people at the point of death. We heard of deathbed visitors, a waiting place, non-dual consciousness, transformation of consciousness, a new reality, and terminal lucidity in people with chronic schizophrenia or dementia. I might understand more in reading the Fenwick’s book: The art of dying. Curious.

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