Austin's Blog

 

The Bucket List

June 29th, 2021    Author:

Things to Do Before You Die

Bucket lists. We’ve all heard of them, but how many of us have made one and how successful is it proving?

The dictionary definition of a bucket list is; ‘a list of the things you want to do before you reach a certain age, or before you die’. It comes from the phrase, ‘to kick the bucket’, which is a figure of speech meaning ‘to die’. Of course, that phrase came from death being caused by a bucket being kicked out from underneath someone with their head in a noose.

The term was also popularised by the film ‘The Bucket List’, which hit our screens back in 2007, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. If you’ve not seen it, it’s about a billionaire and a working class mechanic who, having both been diagnosed with a terminal illness, meet while sharing a hospital room together. They decide to leave the hospital and complete their bucket lists, rather than spending their last few months sitting in bed. The two become the best of friends during their travels and learn to appreciate all the small things in life that we so often overlook when we’re juggling the day to day.

When we make bucket lists, it’s almost like filling a bucket with lots of ideas of things we hope to get round to doing in our lives; all of our ambitions and wishes. And it’s not always just about completing them before we die. In lockdown, we’re sure lots of these types of lists were made. You only have to have a quick browse on the internet to find an array of ‘scratch off’ lockdown bucket lists, from baking banana bread (!) to learning a new language.

In fact there are many different types of bucket list; the Great British bucket list where you can tick off visiting all of Britain’s iconic locations, the golfers’ bucket list for teeing off at all the major courses across the UK and the foodie’s bucket list for all those amazing restaurants and markets.

Match.com conducted a survey on single Americans to find out what they had on their bucket lists. Here’s what they said:

  1. Fall in love – 83%
  2. Go on a wine tour in Napa Valley – 53%
  3. Change someone’s life for the better – 52%
  4. Get to my ideal weight – 47%
  5. Go on a safari – 45%
  6. Ride a hot air balloon – 45%
  7. See the Northern Lights – 45%
  8. Go to the Super Bowl – 43%
  9. Swim with dolphins – 39%
  10. Travel through Europe – 38%

 

While some of them are obviously more relevant to Americans, the Northern Lights, swimming with dolphins and hot air balloon rides are, we’re sure, very popular choices for many. But it’s also nice to see some money can’t buy experiences on there, including changing someone’s life for the better and falling in love.

So what are the benefits of creating a bucket list?

Just like in all areas of life, creating a list helps us to define our goals and work out how we’re going to achieve them!

Time is precious

The very words “bucket list” can put a bit of dread in some people because it makes us think of our own mortality and the limited time we have. On the flip side however, being aware of time can be a gift because we will undoubtedly push ourselves to make our dreams and goals a reality, sooner rather than later.

Bucket lists don’t have to be ‘before we die’ either. You could create your list in stages. For example, travel through Europe before you’re 50 and skydive before you’re 60!

Focus on your values

Your bucket list is just that, yours. When you’re writing your list, make sure it is full of things you want to do, not what others would expect to see on there or what would impress them. It can be quite refreshing to actually focus on what you want.

Motivate yourself

Having dreams in your head is one thing, but once you write them down you’ve taken your first step to making them happen. Start with some small ones and prove to yourself that they can happen; for example, to teach yourself how to knit from an online tutorial. We make lists and plan for everything in life – graduating, having a family, buying a house – the same theory can be applied.

Keep stress and burnout at bay

It is well known that life experiences can fuel the body as much as a healthy diet, education and love. By creating and working through your bucket list, you’re sure to get more out of life.

There are lots of tools online to help with your bucket list, or you can just reach for a pen and paper. However you go about it, have fun and good luck!

Being in a Good Place to Die

May 29th, 2021    Author:

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.

 

 

 

 

Small but beautiful funerals

April 14th, 2021    Author:

Since the start of the pandemic many families have had to limit the number of mourners that can attend their loved ones’ funerals due to strict Covid rules.

Last week we heard the very sad news of the passing of His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The funeral will be televised and, as expected, only 30 people will be able to attend in person. There will be no processions, no streets lined with wellwishers; that’s quite the change from any other royal funeral where hundreds would usually be invited.

It’s been reported that Prince Philip did not want a big state funeral, which got us thinking about all the positives of smaller, more personal funerals that have the deceased at the very heart of them.

On the day of his funeral, the Duke’s coffin will be transported in a specially-adapted Land Rover hearse that he helped design himself. Prince Philip always had a special love for Land Rovers and so it is very fitting that he chose for his final journey to be made inside of one.

Being closer to death

If there can be anything good to come out of this pandemic, it has to be that it has helped us talk more about death and hopefully become slightly more comfortable around it. As we’ve said in many of our blogs before now, it is good to talk about death. While it can be hard to start with, there is no escaping it and talking and planning is a very good way to reduce stress and anxiety.

The fact that Prince Philip thought about how the Land Rover would carry his coffin is a wonderful example of this. These sorts of actions take a lot of stress off of those left behind and make funerals extra special on the day. Funerals can be scary things but having personal touches help to make them less daunting.

Smaller than expected

Some people might actually find it easier with restricted numbers at funerals. It can help reduce social anxiety on the day and worries about making sure you’ve told everyone who may wish to attend. There are many parts of a funeral that can cause anxiety from having lots of people waiting to speak to you on the day, to the pressure of hosting a big wake or planning a faultless service. Sometimes just you and your loved ones is all that is needed.

If you are, however, struggling with the restrictions then there are lots of things you can do to make sure the funeral is just as special as it would be in more normal times:

  • Get creative – if you find local restrictions have caused disruptions to services then try and be creative. For example, instead of relying on a florist you could pick some flowers from your own or a friend’s garden. Although not as grand, this will give the ceremony a very personal feel.
  • Record messages to be played out at the funeral – just as you would have a poem or something similar read during the service, this can be pre-recorded by a loved one who may not be able to attend for that extra personal touch. One review we recently received from a customer showed how powerful online can be: “The celebrant Robby Evans expertly delivered the tribute and the service with reverence, enabling the emotion of the occasion to be captured not only in the Chapel but also for those joining online.”
  • Create your own memorial at home – light a candle next to a photograph of them to bring you closer together, or why not play their favourite music?
  • Create a virtual memorial online – this is a lovely idea for people to post pictures and memories of the person who has passed in a central place for everyone to see, like a virtual book of remembrance. There are lots of ways to do this online.
  • Plan an event for the future – when restrictions ease why not host a memorial service or simply enjoy a meal with friends at your loved one’s favourite restaurant
  • Scatter the ashes at a later date – this doesn’t have to be done at the same time as the funeral. While funerals are time-dependent, you can wait to scatter the ashes at a time when more of you can get together or even travel to a special place.

Let us help you to create the funeral your loved one deserves. We’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – https://www.austins.co.uk/contact.html

We can’t fly without you: Essex and Herts Air Ambulance is our 2021 charity of the year

March 20th, 2021    Author:

As the daffodils are shooting up, days are getting longer and the promise of warmer weather draws nearer, we’re delighted to announce our new charity of the year for 2021 – Essex and Herts Air Ambulance.

We’ve all heard awe-inspiring stories of successful air rescue missions in the news, but how much do we really know about the Air Ambulance and the service it provides locally?

Introducing the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance

Here are some key points that you may not know about this fantastic charity…

  • The charity aims to save lives by delivering a first class pre-hospital emergency medical service
  • They are not part of the NHS and are funded entirely by public donations and National Lottery funding, with very limited financial support from the government
  • They are based in Colchester, Essex
  • Thanks to charitable donations they were able to welcome their first purchased helicopter, the Agusta Westland 169, to the fleet
  • They attend calls both by air in the helicopters and by road in rapid response vehicles

 And in numbers…

  • 2,366 missions in 2020 of which 479 were road traffic collisions
  • 1,239 missions by air and 1,127 by road
  • 1,626 patients treated by their critical care team

Our MD Claire Austin says: “We chose Herts Air Ambulance as our 2021 charity because they provide an amazing, but largely unseen, lifesaving service to our community and are funded purely by charitable giving.”

Charities during Covid

Austin’s charitable fund was set up in 2002 and we have raised over £130,000 for community-based and local charities including the Samaritans, Stevenage Haven, Cancer Hair Care, Tracks Autism and, over the last couple of years, the Butterfly Volunteers at the Lister Hospital and Cruse Bereavement Care.

When we announced Cruse as our 2020 charity of the year last March, we had no idea how difficult things would become for charities nationwide.

Back in June it was predicted by independent charity Pro Bono Economics that the UK’s 170,000 charities would lose £6.4 billion of income over the six months to December 2020, leaving one in 10 potentially facing bankruptcy.

This was a particular threat for smaller, local charities struggling with reduced income and fundraising paused, but increased outgoings on extra costs for things like food, medication and PPE.

The Air Ambulance, like so many others, have had to get creative with their fundraising. They’ve set up online giving platforms, virtual fundraising platforms and even come up with all sorts of ideas for ‘at home fundraising’ including baking challenges (bring back the banana bread from lockdown 1.0!) to Netflix parties!

Onwards and upwards

We’re very grateful to everyone who has helped to raise money for all of our nominated charities so far. Your support really does make a difference, particularly during these most challenging times.

To find out more about the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance, visit: https://www.ehaat.org/

 In the meantime, we’ll be posting updates about the work they do throughout the year on our website and social media channels.