We mention a lot here at Austins about the importance of talking about death and opening up to others about your thoughts, worries and wants before the time comes. There is a national campaign surrounding this called Dying Matters Awareness Week, which takes place each May.
Last year’s theme was ‘Dying to be heard’, which focused on the many people who want to talk about death but don’t feel that they have anyone to talk to about it. Around the same time last year, Hospice UK released new research findings, showing that 72% of those bereaved in the last five years would rather friends and colleagues said the wrong thing than nothing at all, and 62% said that one of the top three most useful things someone could do was to just sit and listen to them.
This year’s theme is focused on being #InAGoodPlace to die. While the Covid pandemic may have brought death to the forefront of our consciousness as a nation, actually planning for parts of our death – what we want to do before we go, where we want to die and how we want our funeral to be – are quite different to talking about death and dying generally.
Research by Dying Matters found that only 13% of adults have told a loved one where they want to be when they die, and just three in 10 know how to make the necessary arrangements to achieve this. The remainder don’t have end of life plans in place, either because they don’t know how to talk about it or where to start going about it.
Of course it’s not just about where you want to die. Being ‘in a good place’ includes:
- Physically (place of death, Advance Care Planning)
- Emotionally (talking about death, making sure loved ones are cared for)
- Financially (making a will, making funeral plans)
- Spiritually (How different faith groups talk about and prepare for death)
- Digitally (Looking at digital assets, social media, online banking)
Having as much of this in place as you can makes everything easier for your loved ones when you’re gone, and helps protect them too. Although the conversations may be difficult now, the ones later down the line will be much harder without them. We need to be braver about talking and better about planning for our end of life.
There are lots of professionals out there who can help with financial and digital planning, and of course we always encourage conversations to be had, but who do we talk to and what are the options when thinking about planning our physical passing?
If you or a loved one knows that your life is coming to an end, you might want to think about where you would like that to happen. Some people will find this easier to talk about than others – you may feel very strongly about planning it, or you may need a little help starting a conversation about it.
There is no right or wrong place to die; it will be different for everyone and depends on where you will be most comfortable and what will work best for you and your family. The main options are:
- at home
- in a hospice
- in hospital
- in a nursing home or care home
A lot of people like the idea of dying at home. You know you will be comfortable, surrounded by your own things and familiar with your environment. However, there can be concerns around the level of care you will receive, as well as how family will cope having you at home if you were to become more unwell.
Hospices are wonderful places that give you the home-from-home feel but in a professional care environment. They are more personal than hospitals and you can take your own belongings, bedding etc. to make yourself more comfortable. On the other hand, if you have been receiving treatment in hospital you may have developed relationships with the staff there and like the familiarity without having to settle somewhere different.
There are many avenues of support available and, remember, your plan can change with your needs. For instance, you may be at home for the meantime but know that a hospice is available should your circumstances change and you suddenly need it. Your GP, district nurses, hospice home care team or other support network are all there to help.
You can still join the @DyingMatters conversation on social media using the hashtags #InAGoodPlace and #DMAW21 or visit www.dyingmatters.org/AwarenessWeek for more information.