Shelley Lamprell-Josephs is a Counselling Therapist and Director of Solace of Souls Care and Training in Hunstanton, Norfolk, UK. Here, she explains the background to her undergraduate thesis that is published in the September/October issue of the European Journal of Palliative Care.
I arrived somewhat nervous for my first day, in my first role as an auxiliary nurse, aged just 17. I was directed to a patient’s room having been told she had just died. I was asked to sit with her so that she was not alone. Initially, this was a scary prospect, however, as I sat there holding her hand, I knew it was the right thing to do.
Over 25 years later, my journey as a health and social care professional has included many years of working with palliative clients. This has always included a particular interest in emotional and spiritual needs, which I gradually recognised as an integral part of end of life care. However, several years ago, when I was asked to care for a family friend, my career began to change and further embrace a much more holistic approach. ‘Marian’ was diagnosed with terminal cancer and was extremely frightened, but more than anything, wanted to die in the home she loved.
I supported ‘Marian’ in the few months before she died, accompanying her in her outpatient chemo sessions, inpatient stays and at her home. We talked, laughed and cried and I supported her with anything, from hoovering the front room and sorting out her paperwork, to sitting quietly, holding her hand and offering Reiki sessions. I was there with her throughout the last 24 hours of her life, offering love, reassurance and support to her and her family. I helped to wash and dress her ready for the funeral directors and I supported her family through the funeral process and beyond.
The experience I shared with ‘Marian’ highlighted for me the need for a greater focus and understanding of good quality, individualised, holistic care at the end of life. I have since worked in this way with several other people and I was then asked to create courses for carers and professionals (such as counsellors, nurses, social workers and chaplains) to have all the tools they need to offer quality, holistic end of life care. These courses offer an in-depth exploratory learning environment, which looks at physical, emotional, social, environmental and spiritual aspects of care and support in palliative care.
Through my career, I have discovered that spirituality embraces all our personal beliefs and values that have formed throughout a lifetime, not just religious beliefs, but also individual non-partisan perspectives. These form the way we view the world we live in, as well as our wishes and choices. I was keen to develop further research into this area of palliative care and was therefore delighted to have this opportunity with my undergraduate dissertation. There were some interesting results discovered in the research study, including the issue of linguistic paucity, i.e., are our words/language limited in verbalising our experience of metaphysical phenomena? Also of interest were the repetitive patterns of thinking that highlighted a new processing theory – Primary Existential Design.
Read the full article in the European Journal of Palliative Care
This post relates to a longer article, ‘Do spiritual beliefs influence coping mechanisms in dealing with death and dying?’ by Shelley Lamprell-Josephs, published in the September/October 2015 issue of the European Journal of Palliative Care (vol. 22.5). If you have a web-based subscription to the journal you’ll be able to download this issue, plus all articles in the journal archive. You can also browse the archive and download articles by taking a 10-minute or 30-minute subscription. Members of the EAPC receive discounted subscription rates to the journal – click here to subscribe online.