Award winning service shares their learning on how to improve end of life support in care homes

Blakesley House Nursing home have been working on improving their End of Life (EoL) services for residents. Throughout their strive to be better, they’ve achieved recognition for the second time from the Gold Standard Framework (GSF) Hallmark and have received the GSF Platinum award 2017-2020. Blakesley are among 20 care homes from across England to win this prestigious award from the National GSF centre.

Karen Agbuya has worked for Blakesley house since 2015 and spoke with My Home Life (MHL) about her journey as a care assistant working with older people.

Karen has worked with many residents facing end of life, she thinks it’s important to support people to have a ‘Good Death’.“For me the experience of a resident passing away is always an emotional and personal one”.

Karen explained to MHL that Blakesley House has worked hard to change and improve their offer of support to residents who are at the end of their life. The most significant change to our practice was to have more ‘conversations’. Talking with a resident about what they’d like at the end of their life is important to them and, to me as a carer. By having these conversations sensitively (and there is likely more than one) and, early on, it allows residents to feel heard, settled and comforted that all has been taken care of.

Karen explained that Blakesley House use Advanced Care Planning (ACP) techniques to capture their residents plan for EoL, she said “advanced care planning avoids confusion if a resident becomes ill quickly and perhaps is unable to communicate their wishes to us”. In speaking with Karen her passion around supporting people facing EoL was impressive. Her honesty when talking about residents advanced care planning was refreshing to hear. Conversations with older people around death and dying is never easy, but by having them its often a relief for residents. To know everything is done and planned for, is a big comfort to them”.

Some positive experiences Karen’s shared with residents at the end of their lives have been, “Seeing a resident’s ACP through, has created a sense of calm in their final hours. Some ACP’s have requested things such as having a bath. Residents in their final hours have found bathing to be a relief from pain and discomfort. I’ve also provided things such as, fresh linen, made sure the resident is comfortable and dressed to their liking. I’ve applied makeup to ladies before as it’s important to them to look nice, I’ve also been asked to provide music, this often plays in the background in someone’s final hours, and we’ve been told by residents this offers them a feeling of peace and comfort at the end. Key in our minds is keeping people comforted and cared for”.

Margret Lane Manager and owner of Blakesley House expressed her delight that her team won the GSF award and is proud of their continued passion to learn, reflect and improve. MHL asked Margret, what was the single most important thing she changed that cost nothing? Margret replied “encouraging teamwork in the home has had the biggest impact to our overall service. This dynamic, safe environment developed by the team, has created a supportive space for all the staff to grow and improve, and all of this directly improves the overall experience for the resident.

MHL feels it’s important to recognise that supporting older people living in care homes at the end of their lives is something health and social care professionals do every day, proudly, compassionately, quietly and without fuss. We would therefore like to thank them, and congratulate Blakesley House on winning their award and striving for continued improvement. Well done.

Our thanks goes out to Blakesley House Nursing home for taking the time to speak to My Home Life about their experiences.