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Discussing death with dementia sufferers

An NHS psychologist in Oldham has developed a creative new tool to support people with dementia and help them talk about death.

Polly Kaiser, a consultant psychologist with Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, has worked with award-winning illustrator, Tony Husband, and dementia trainer, Linda Green, to produce a leaflet which helps people to prepare for the end of life.

Polly started the project after Springboard Oldham, a dementia carers group, wanted help to have these important, but difficult, conversations about death and care needs.

Local people with dementia, their carers, and others from the national dementia voices network (DEEP) came together to discuss the questions and barriers they faced.

Polly, Linda and other health professionals shared their expertise, and Tony brought it to life in his unique and humorous cartoon style.

Polly said: “We asked people with dementia, their carers and family members what was working well and what needs to change. 

“One of the main issues was when and how to have conversations around death and end of life care. One person told us his family had said ‘you’ve years left yet, don’t bother, leave it until nearer the time’.

“But by starting these conversations early, people can begin to make plans so their needs and wishes can be known – and ideally met.

“We were lucky that funding from Dementia United meant we could work with Tony Husband, to translate these ideas into something we hope will be useful to many.” 

Jacqui Bingham, who was involved in the project, added: “As a person with dementia, I found it refreshing that we were at the heart of this process from the start.”

A copy of ‘Let’s talk about death, shall we?’ can be found at www.penninecare.nhs.uk.

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