Background Despite advances in end of life and palliative care in terms of education and awareness, inequalities still exist, including for people with learning disabilities (Care Quality Commission, 2016). As a hospice with a passion for inclusion, we have partnered with SWALLOW charity to establish a programme to meet this need. SWALLOW charity was established in 1993 by people with learning disabilities and their families to develop a new way of meeting their needs; to provide an alternative to day centres and residential homes. We estimate approximately 160 patients and family members may indirectly benefit from our reciprocal programme.
Dorothy House staff working within the hospice and the community environment will have greater knowledge and skills in supporting those with learning disabilities.
SWALLOW staff (non-registered carers and senior carers) will have greater knowledge, skills and confidence in helping those with palliative and end of life care needs.
Method The programme offered two consecutive face-to-face training days for each organisation. Staff from both organisations contributed to the teaching.
For SWALLOW staff, sessions included the language of death and dying, end of life care planning, loss and bereavement, support with recognising the signs of end of life.
The Dorothy House staff sessions considered how best to adapt the principles and tools of end of life care for people with learning disabilities.
Results Feedback evaluation from all four days was highly positive. The beneficial impact on practice was frequently referred to as, summed up in the following quote:
‘The best bit? …experiences from the members of SWALLOW, they really have given me the insight into the challenges people with learning disabilities face. I know I can now give better care’.
Conclusion This education programme highlights the importance of a collaborative approach to education to combat inequalities in end of life care for people with learning disabilities.
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