Housing and end of life care

Clare Henry MBE
Claire Henry MBE , University of Cambridge Palliative and End of Life Care research group

When we talk about a home for life do we really mean that? In housing we pride ourselves in building, developing and maintaining flexible living to help people retain their independence and provide care and support when they need it. With this comes end of life care and as a sector are we geared up to offer support and care to the end?

With over 500,000 people dying in the UK every year, and with death increasing year on year, the increasing number of tenants with dementia and multi co morbidities presents both a challenge and opportunity for the housing sector.

Around 50% of all deaths are currently occurring in hospitals, and while some people would choose to die there many given the choice would want to die at home. Being in a familiar environment, surround by those who are important to them, often friends who are fellow tenants and beloved pets supported with dignified and quality care would be what most of us would want.

When we talk about a home for life do we really mean that? Within the housing sector there is the opportunity to be creative and innovative with housing schemes providing an alternative to enable people to have that choice as to where they would like to live and ultimately die, really making it a home for life. Enabling couples to stay together and tackling loneliness and isolation as most people would not want to die alone.

However, do you know or understanding what your tenants would like? Does your staff have the knowledge and competencies to have these conversations and know where to get support? Thinking about the wellbeing of family and other tenants, looking at how they can become involved in supporting each other and the importance of bereavement care and memorials for  tenants, families and staff.

Many extra care housing schemes are seeing up to nine tenants die annually so many housing schemes are already providing this care and support. It is vital that we share what works and learn from what has not.

With many housing providers currently enabling their tenants to stay in their homes until they die and providing good quality proactive care by working together with other agencies such as community services and voluntary organisations enable this to happen. However, this can be a challenge as finding out what is available in your local area is not always that easy. When staff are able to provide this level of care they feel empowered, giving them a huge amount of job satisfaction. 

The Housing LIN is keen to support its members to develop a practical resource that aims to share good practice, useful tools and training to enable tenants to be supported at the end of life. We also have dedicated housing and end of life care webpage. However, would like to hear from you what has worked well for you and what could be better. And tell us of any of these or other useful resources that you have used or seen, as by sharing we can make the sector stronger.

Lastly, if you provide great housing and/or care at the end of life or have seen others do so, we really do want to hear from you  so we can feature you in an upcoming guide. Please email us at: info@housinglin.org.uk [Subject: End of Life Care and Housing'].

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