Wednesday, February 02, 2011

A Good Death

That was the title of a presentation this evening on the kind of care which makes a difference in the last few weeks or months of life.  There were some sobering statistics.  In just 100 years we've moved from dying at an average age of 46 from infectious disease, childbirth or accidents to dying at an average age of 78 from cancer, organ failure or dementia.  60% of us would rather die at home than anywhere else yet only 20% of us do.  In fact 60% die in hospital after a relatively short stay.
There was much discussion around the idea of Compassionate Communities - a recognition by most people there that the way to ensure a good death, in a place where we are content to be, free of pain with friends and families nearby, is not to spend more and more money on hospitals and treatments.  The answer lies in some big changes in how society works, how we support people as they become more frail, less able to cope and perhaps less able to decide for themselves what they want.  We need to find ways to enable people to do things for others without too much red tape, but with enough to make sure people are safe. 
I'm old enough to remember sending for the woman who lived down the road when someone died.  She did the "laying out" which these days is done by the undertaker.  Why shouldn't we pop next door or down the road to see if someone is OK?  Maybe arrange with neighbours that we'll take turns doing it?  Perhaps invite an elderly neighbour in for a meal occasionally, or take a meal in to them? 
This is our challenge - in the midst of economic belt tightening, to begin to create the Compssionate Communities we need.
Prior to that challenge was a more short - term one, otherwise known as planning committee!  Today's agenda had some very difficult items to decide on.  Should we agree to a batch of big, exclusive, expensive houses outside the limits to development on an unsustainable village just because the people who can afford those houses want them there?  Will they really bring such amazing spending power to the borough that we should ignore our planning policies?  Then on to a small scale development which would only affect one other house - who's rights are more important?  A site visit yesterday enabled a properly informed decision on that, whereas we deferred the decision on a wind speed measuring mast at Seamer because we didn't feel we had the right information - quotes from letters but not the whole letter, claims and counter claims about technical matters.  And then there was the parking application which sounded more like a neighbour dispute dressed up in planning terms.  And so it went on, and on.  Out of the window went my plans to catch up on some emails before the seminar.  Instead I was only just at the town hall in time. 
But then, at home, some good news about various issues around the elections, following a busy evening last night.  As one person said, it's amazing what happens when 3 women put their heads together!

No comments: