Why Talking about Dying Matters

The importance of holding positive conversations on death and dying

There are some topics that you generally don’t want brought up over a cup of tea – the topic of Brexit is still carving family and friendships in half – but what about death?

Fear of the unknown and a refusal to acknowledge what eventually comes to us all sweeps this important topic under the carpet, and in some cases, it is only addressed when a loved one dies.

At Helpd, we believe that a positive conversation about death, and dying, can be a source of comfort and an opportunity to bond more closely with friends and loved ones. Here’s why:

Discussing death helps us to die as we would wish

In the same way that an expectant mother will have a clear view on where, and how, she would like her baby to be born, it makes sense to make as informed a decision as possible about the process of dying. Whilst we cannot control what will lead to our death, we can make important decisions in advance, including:

  • Whether you want to be resuscitated

It is possible to make an Advanced Decision to Refuse Treatment (ADRT) and/or put in place a Do Not Attempt CPR (DNACPR) order. NHS UK has some useful resources: www.nhs.uk/conditions/end-of-life-care/advance-decision-to-refuse-treatment/ as does the Resuscitation Council (UK) www.resus.org.uk/dnacpr/do-not-attempt-cpr-model-forms/

  • Whether you would like to die at home

According to a report from Macmillan Cancer Support, 38% of cancer patients die in hospital when only 1% of them would choose to do so1. Discussing this formally with your family in advance gives you time to make the necessary plans and provides a far greater likelihood of achieving your goal.

  • Whether you would like to donate your organs

Over 80% of adults in England say they would definitely, or would consider, donating their organs, but only 37% of the UK population have registered as donors on the NHS Organ Donor Register2. The UK Government is planning to change legislation – effectively creating a model whereby people must ‘opt-out’ of becoming an organ donor, but until such time, there is still a gap between people’s stated intentions and the number of organ donors on the register.

  • What type of funeral you would like to have

Having a clear funeral plan in advance of your death can act as a final gift to your loved ones – removing the stress of having to negotiate with other relatives or second-guess your wishes. Dying Matters has an excellent, free template which you can use to record your wishes – from where you would like your funeral to be held to the clothes you would like to be dressed in. You can download it here: www.dyingmatters.org/sites/default/files/files/My%20Funeral%20Wishes%202017.pdf

 

It is a discussion founded on care

We seek to support the ambitions, dreams and expectations of our families and friends in life and so it should be with death. Discussing death is an opportunity to address one’s hopes and make positive plans. If a loved one is receiving end of life care, it can be a source of great comfort to them to know that their wishes will be carried out. For the family, it provides a positive focus point and removes any uncertainties.

 

What is encouraging to see is the emergence of organisations dedicated to helping people discuss death – such as the Death Café (www.deathcafe.com) where people can meet face-to-face and discuss the topic in a relaxed, informal atmosphere; and Dying Matters (www.dyingmatters.org) which offers a range of practical resources from conversation guides to signposting to end of life services.

It gives you time to prepare

The more prepared you are the better – with people’s estates now including vast digital records, it is important to make sure that all aspects of a person’s life are included in their plan for death. As an example, Facebook will require you to prove that a user has died – in the form of a scanned death certificate, and that you are related to them, should you wish to remove an account. Sharing your digital passwords with a trusted family member and instructing them on what you want to happen with your social media accounts (and recording that this is your wish) is a positive way to remove what could be an additional worry.

Given everything that is involved, there is no reason to wait until a loved one has died to learn about the process of funeral arrangements or how bodies are cared for between death and a funeral taking place. Funeral Director Poppy Mardall has written an excellent blog that busts some myths (did you know, for example, that you do not have to have a hearse?) which you can read here: www.dyingmatters.org/blog/10-myth-busting-facts-about-funerals. There is also the question of the practicalities of registering a death and notifying the relevant authorities – you’ll find clear instructions on Gov.UK here: www.gov.uk/after-a-death.

A helping hand

With all of these resources now at your fingertips, we hope that this post has provided you with the tools you need to start a very important conversation. Perhaps it’s time to put the kettle on….

 

About us

At Helpd, we provide a dedicated online introductory service that puts you in control of your care – including palliative care. To find out more about what we do, visit www.helpd.co.uk

 

1.www.theguardian.com/society/2017/apr/28/thousands-of-cancer-patients-denied-wish-to-die-at-home

2.www.organdonation.nhs.uk//supporting-my-decision/the-opt-out-system/

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