Improving end-of-life care at St Luke’s Hospital

An initiative to improve care for dying patients and their families at St Luke’s Hospital was launched last week.

An initiative to improve care for dying patients and their families at St Luke’s Hospital was launched last week.

The launch of an End of Life Care Resource Folder, held during End of Life Awareness Week, was carried out by celebrated GAA commentator Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh, who was described as “the fittest 81-year-old in the country”.

In addition to entertaining those present with anecdotes of Kilkenny and Carlow GAA, including Kilkenny’s near miss with an All-Ireland football final in the early 20th century, Mr Ó Muircheartaigh congratulated the hospital on its efforts to improve its end-of-life care.

Noting that “St Luke’s Hospital is the birthplace for GAA people,” hospital manager Ann Slattery said that St Luke’s aims to care for people at all stages of life, including the final one. The resource folder contains practical guidance for staff about end-of-life care, including “communicating in very difficult circumstances” and information on “giving the best possible care to people who are dying”.

“With over 900 people in the hospital, there is nobody who isn’t affected by end-of-life issues,” Ms Slattery said.

“We strongly believe that end-of-life care is in all our roles, no matter where we work in the hospital. We all have a role to play,” added Brenda Cooper, assistant director of nursing and chairwoman of the hospital’s End of Life Care Committee.

The priority is that the patients are treated with utmost dignity and respect, she said – and for family and friends of the patient, “a good experiences around death is always remembered; a bad experience is never forgotten. We have only one chance to get it right and there is no going back.”

Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh referred to 1930s Blasket Islands writer Muiris Ó Súilleabháin, who wrote books exploring stages of life in 20-year periods. Starting with the first 20 years of life was “a wonderful time”, Mr Ó Muircheartaigh pointed out, and then ages 20-40 a time of bloom, ages 40-60 a “decaying” or declining, and then ages 60-80 when “nobody gives a hoot whether you are there or not”.

“Maybe he was playing a bit, but that is no longer the case. People are now very concerned about 60 to 80 and beyond,” Mr Ó Muircheartaigh said.

As medical physician Rory McGovern pointed out, “often death doesn’t come straight away. It comes over time, and all you want is to guarantee someone a dignified death.” St Luke’s Hospital, he said, is “mostly about life and curing but we cannot forget that we are about providing a good death for people as well.”