Why we should have conversations about what matters to us

02 Jun 2021

In a way, the first conversations about future care and end of life began many years before my Dad moved to Jewish Care’s Vi & John Rubens House. My two Nana’s had lived at the care home in the 80’s and during that time, my parents, Ruth and Leslie Sherman, were very involved with the home.

Dad was a vibrant man and he was always the person to help others. He was a cabbie and a paramedic. He did so much voluntary work; he was a special constable in the police force and volunteered for Jewish Care, fundraising and taking residents out on outings. I remember joking with him, when he moved into the care home, “I always said we’d book your room here, but I never thought you’d take us up on it,” and he laughed.

Dad had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Parkinson’s Dementia and as part of the admissions process to the care home, the care team explained that we needed to make decisions in advance about his care. They supported our family to have conversations about his end of life wishes.

Mum and Dad talked about whether he’d want to be resuscitated (DNR) if he went into cardiac arrest. He was very clear that he didn’t. He’d been a strong person all his life, going round helping everyone until he became ill, but he knew what he wanted.

He was comfortable moving to the care home because he knew everyone so well. He lived there for almost three years. We felt Dad was happy and so well cared for at the home and this helped us immensely. We agreed it was important to him to stay in the home when it came to his end of life, to be in place he knew with the people he trusted. Not in a hospital.

It meant everything to our family to be there with him in his final days. We sat as a family at his side, surrounded by photos and all things Dad loved. My sister, Alice would sing and play music for him on the keyboard. My brother Richard would always go through old photos with him, he’d always enjoyed that so much. The carers too would always come and check on him and on us, regularly.

We kept everything calm. I told Dad not to worry as we would all look after Mum for him and each other. It was comforting to have that space with him before he died. We had time to reflect on all he’d achieved in his life. The moment was peaceful. It was the way he’d lived his life. 8th February 2020 was the longest day I’ve known, but the love, care and dignity that surrounded our family was insurmountable.

We were grateful that we were able to have a normal Levoyah and Shiva; people came to the house in droves for the Shiva, but when lockdown came it was harder as we couldn’t see each other.

If Dad knew that by talking about his end of life wishes it could prompt other people to think about their own and that it would help them, I know he would love that too.

Jewish Care are encouraging communities to begin compassionate conversations and share what matters most to them, with important people in their life.