Latest blog from our CEO: Planning makes a real difference

It’s that time of the year when people start to think of books for the summer holidays. Every year I go through a ritual of picking three or four books, take them with me and return with most unread!

In recent weeks one of the books that has dominated the non-fiction bestsellers lists on both sides of the Atlantic has been ‘Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.’

After the sudden death of her husband, Sheryl Sandberg became something of an internet celebrity with her heart-wrenching open letter to her late husband. Her voice had been previously prominent enough as Chief Operating Officer of Facebook but now she had a whole new audience as she spoke about the total overwhelming shock of sudden death.

She felt certain that she and her children would never feel pure joy again. “I was in ‘the void,’” she writes, “a vast emptiness that fills your heart and lungs and restricts your ability to think or even breathe.” Her friend Adam Grant, a psychologist, told her there are concrete steps people can take to recover and rebound from life-shattering experiences. We are not born with a fixed amount of resilience.

Option B combines Sheryl’s personal insights with Grant’s research on finding strength in the face of adversity. Option B goes beyond Sheryl’s loss to explore how people have overcome hardships including illness, job loss, sexual assault, natural disasters, and the violence of war.

It is a strangely life affirming book and surprisingly uplifting.

One of the constant themes in Sandberg’s writing is how important it is that we should be as prepared as possible for life-changing events. Had she and her husband talked and planned about things then she suggests life might have been so much easier.

It is often hard to talk about declining health and to have the discussions with family and friends that ensures that our wishes and feelings are taken into account when we might not be able to make our views known. But planning and letting others know what we want can make a real difference to those who love us.

A couple of weeks ago Scotland’s national ‘Anticipatory Care Plan’ was launched. Developed by a range of stakeholders through Health Improvement Scotland this resource includes an App, guidance notes and a pack to help individuals and those who support them be better prepared for palliative and end of life support.

Have a look at it, as it is a tremendously practical and useful resource. The hope is that as many people as possible have the conversations that matter.

Conversations and making plans of course involves people. We know at Scottish Care that care at home and care home staff are often the folks who people talk to and with whom conversations around care are being held every day. We equally know that in order for the ambitions of the Anticipatory Care Planning programme to be achieved we need as a society to give workers ‘time to talk.’ Put simply amongst other things that means changing the way we develop and monitor contracts to make them time flexible and sensitive. Proper planning around illness and palliative care has to become centre stage to the way we commission services and procure care. Unless that happens the conversations will not have the space to take place.

There are two events later in the year that will provide an opportunity to explore planning as well as other palliative and end of life issues. The first is the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care Annual Conference on 20th September. The second event is Scottish Care’s Palliative and End of Life Care event on the 12th October.

Dr Donald Macaskill

@DrDMacaskill

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