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A favourite tipple aids end of life care at Shropshire hospitals

By Lisa O'Brien | Telford | Health | Published: | Last Updated:

It's never an easy thing, having to say goodbye to a loved one at the end of their life. Jean Beels spent her last days on a stroke and rehabilitation ward at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, with her family at her bedside.

But the 85-year-old, from Shrewsbury, was able to share one last treat in hospital with her loved ones – Prosecco.

The mother-of-four, who had lived in Castlefields before moving into Montgomery House in 2017, was taken to hospital with a chest infection but sadly died a short while later.

Four out of five hospital patients will have swallowing difficulties in the last 72 hours of life, and eating and drinking can be impossible.

Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, which runs RSH and Princess Royal Hospital in Telford, is rolling out a Taste for Pleasure initiative, so that during end of life care staff can use the patient’s favourite flavours, dabbing it on their lips, to provide moisture.

Family and friends are asked what the patient's favourite flavours are – it can be anything from blackcurrant squash to tea, and even whiskey.

Some foods such as chocolate and ice-cream can also be considered.

Jules Lock, end of life care lead volunteer at the trust, keeps patients company when relatives are unable to visit, or friends and family need respite.

She came up with the initiative, which has attracted world-wide interest.

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A Facebook post about the scheme has reached 2.6 million people with 28,000 'likes' and has been shared 17,000 times.

Focus

Jules said: "Some months ago, I sat with a patient over the course of a week as she reached the end of her life.

"Sitting with someone in this way focuses your mind and gives you time to contemplate your surroundings.

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"We were in a newly-decorated Swan Room that had mood lights, a CD player and a warm, relaxing atmosphere, but something was written above the bed that made me feel uncomfortable.

"The patient was lying beneath the words, ‘nil by mouth’.

"The lady was barely responsive so eating and drinking were clearly out of the question, yet the ward staff were obliged to signpost this information.

"It made me wonder how upsetting it must be for friends and family being constantly reminded as their loved one slips away that they will not eat or drink again. We take these fundamental processes for granted, and we share moments, both happy and sad, through food and drink.

"When it comes to end of life care there aren’t really any rules, and those that there are are made to be broken. With that in mind, we have introduced safe Taste for Pleasure for our patients, the language we use is so important and can make such a difference.

"This simple change to the patient’s routine not only aids their care within the hospital, it also opens up a conversation about their life, what their favourite food and drink is, and can remind them and their loved ones of joyful past experiences."

She said the response to the initiative has been overwhelming.

"Lots of people have reflected on how that would have impacted on the death of their relatives," she said.

"We've had contact with people across the world asking for more information.

"It's wonderful. I'm stunned. To think it's gone to this stage from a casual comment I made is quite amazing really."

The trust’s end of life care and speech and language therapy teams are working to roll out Taste For Pleasure across both hospitals.

Experience

Emily Davies, speech and language therapist professional lead, said swallowing safety is always assessed, and staff balance risk with quality for the patient.

A Taste for Pleasure sign is also put behind a patient's bed to highlight to other staff their wishes.

Jean Beels' daughter Carol Beels, 61, of Shrewsbury, was at her mother's bedside, with other family members, when they were able to experience the impact of the Taste for Pleasure initiative.

They all shared a bottle of Prosecco, including Jean who was unconscious but able to taste the flavour by it being dabbed onto her lips using a swab.

Jean

Carol said: "She loved a party and I firmly believe she thought we were having a party because we were all there.

"We were celebrating her fantastic life.

"It was comfortable. We were doing things as a family that we had always done. This should be offered everywhere."

The trust has a number of Swan Rooms, which are spaces for patients that are at the end of their life to use, allowing relatives to spend valuable time with their loved one in a more peaceful and calming environment.

The hospital is now hoping to have a Swan Room in memory of Jean, which will be highlighted by a plaque.

Lisa O'Brien

By Lisa O'Brien
Senior Reporter - @lisaobrien_Star

Senior reporter based at Shropshire Star's head office in Ketley. Covering the Telford area.

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