Death, dying and bereavement are taboo subjects in our society, yet they are an inevitable and unavoidable fact. Over the last 50 years or so, dying has become a medical issue, the responsibility of professionals, and hidden from view as much as possible.

But dying is not something which happens in the last day or two of life – it happens over months or years and mainly happens in communities, surrounded (if we are lucky) by friends and families.

As we approach the end of our life we want to be pain free and comfortable, but we also need to avoid loneliness and isolation, to maintain a purpose in life, and to have important conversations with people who matter to us. We want to “Live Right up to the End”

Strathcarron Hospice has recognised that for many people it is not highly qualified professionals who are required, but a human being – a compassionate neighbour from our own community.

In 2013 we introduced Strathcarron Befrienders to offer social and practical support to individuals and families who are facing the challenges of advancing illness.

Strathcarron Hospice has now trained and supported more than 70 volunteers. They visit people in their own homes with similar personalities and interests. They tailor their companionship and support to the person’s needs and wishes.

In 2016, we embarked on a project called “Living Right up to the End”. The Health and Social Care Alliance are funding this project. We are engaging with people who are living with long-term conditions, to find out what is important to them as their health deteriorates. We want to know about what supports them and what they find difficult. We are also interested in what prevents them and their loved ones having important conversations and making plans for the future. We want to work with individuals, their carers, and people who support them to identify ways in which Strathcarron can work with local communities, drawing on their strengths and assets, to provide support as their condition advances.

Over the next few months, we will feature regular blogs providing more information and updates as this work progresses.

If you would like to know more about Compassionate Communities at Strathcarron Hospice, contact Susan High by telephone on 01324-826222 or by email: susan.high@nhs.net