Dying Matters: Let's talk about dying

Every year in May, Dying Matters and coalition members host an Awareness Week. From the 13th to the 19th of May, this year’s Dying Matters Week will be themed “Are We Ready?”

Did you know:

  • Just 35% of adults said they had made a will
  • Just 30% had let someone know their funeral wishes
  • Just 7% had written down wishes or preferences about the care they would want if they couldn’t make decisions
  • Just 25% had asked a family member about their end of life wishes
  • Just 33% registered to be an organ donor

Around 500,000 people die in England each year, and it is predicted that this will rise to 590,000 within the next 20 years. Approximately 400,000 of these 500,000 deaths each year will be expected, with people identified as being at the end of life. End of life care can be a confusing term as we are thinking about not only the last few days and weeks of life but also the last 12 months of someone’s life. So, there are a lot of people each year who are potentially in the last year of life but talking about dying is something that we find challenging both as health care professionals and as a society generally.  Have you noticed many people even find using the word dying challenging and 55% of people still prefer to say “passed” or “passing” instead of “dead” or “dying”.

There is no doubt it can be emotive and health and social care professionals might feel ill equipped to have these conversations. However it’s important that we do talk about dying as part of the care that we provide as this helps enable quality of life and quality of death. Previously working in a Hospice I can see how beneficial doing this kind of planning can be for people at the end of life and how it can help people feel more autonomous and in control. 

As health care professionals we do owe people the opportunity to discuss this if they want to and not avoid the subject. You don’t have to be at the end of life to talk about things related to dying anyone can do it. Death café are popular as a way of getting people together to talk about a variety of things.  My experience of attending one was primarily out of curiosity as it felt like a strange concept to me.  The reality was that it was an informal, funny, thought provoking experience where we ate cake drank tea and listening to people's thoughts on what music they would want played at their funeral (dance yourself dizzy Liquid Gold for me)!

The organisation Dying Matters were set up to support people to talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement and to make plans for the end of life. Dying Matters are a broad coalition of organisations, individuals, academic institutions and communities across England and Wales. They offer a range of resources to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and to make plans for the end of life.

 For example they offer myth busting facts about funerals, such as:

  • You don’t need to use a funeral director
  • You don’t have to have a coffin
  • People don’t have to be embalmed
  • You don’t have to have a funeral or service

As part of Dying Matters week, varied organisations run awareness raising events from Coffee Mornings to thinking about advance care planning or writing a will.  During this week why don’t you:

  • Make a plan to write a Will
  • Think about registering as an organ donor
  • Tell someone what you would want for your future health care
  • Tell someone what you wouldn’t want for your future health care
  • Write three things you would like to do before you die…….do them
  • Check out dying matters website for ideas to start conversations with service users

 

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