The end of our story is an important part of our story and we have one chance to get it right. By championing end of life care, and promoting Dying Matters week, we hope to get this difficult, but necessary conversation started.
None of us likes to think about dying, but not talking about it won't make it go away – any more than talking about dying will make it happen sooner. Having the big conversation can help you to live well and to make the most of life until the very end. The key message is don't leave it too late to plan ahead – and do tell those closest to you about your wishes.
Dying Matters Week (9-15 May) aims to raise public awareness about the importance of talking more openly about dying, death and bereavement and of planning ahead.
A Dying Matters survey in 2015 found that just 18 per cent of British adults say they have asked a family member about their end of life wishes. Only 7 per cent that they have written down their wishes or preferences about their future care and only 35 per cent of the public say they have written a will.
Although talking about dying may not be easy, it could be one of the most important conversations people will ever have. Many people have strong views about care and what happens after death, but if people don't talk about their wishes these are unlikely to be met.
A group of End of Life Champions, that includes Reading Borough Council, local NHS partners and Sue Ryder, are currently driving a project to improve end of life care in the borough, through better integration, collaboration and communication.
The group are keen for people to start the conversation on dying and consider a checklist of five important things to think about:
- Legal and financial matters – look into writing a will;
- Organ donation - register your decision and let your loved ones know;
- End of life care - write an advance care plan and discuss wishes with your GP;
- How you would like to be remembered;
- Funeral plans - record your funeral wishes.
The group are also holding a Big Conversation afternoon event on Wednesday 8th June at St Laurence Church Friar Street, Reading, RG1 1DA from 1.30 to 4.30pm.
To emphasise the importance of having the big conversation, the CCGs have produced a film, A Good Death – Molly's Story, a moving account from Judy, talking about the final phase of her mother's life and how important it was to talk about her mother's wishes. Having these conversations meant that the right support was in place so that Molly got her final wish – to die in the family home. This can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSZLucUnMcI
It's not too late to take part in an online survey, where the CCGs are asking people for their views to shape the future of NHS end of life and palliative care services. To take part, go to the Berkshire Health Network at www.healthnetwork-berkshire.nhs.uk/consult.ti and complete the survey before it closes on 26 May 2016.