Dying Matters Awareness Week this year focusses on how we respond when someone wants to talk about death or grief and how we can be part of that conversation. One of the most important aspects of our work is in talking to patients, their carers and their families about Advance Care Planning. Much like a birth plan, it’s an essential tool to help ensure the wishes of the person are recorded and respected. Jo Marovitch, Starlight Outpatient Services Manager, explains why we all need to be more open about how we want to be cared for and our end of life wishes.
“Advance Care Planning is all about thinking about your wishes for your future care and at the end of your life and sharing those with your family and the people important to you as well as health and care professionals.
When patients are referred to us we open up the conversation and that can lift a huge burden from patients and their families. These aren’t one-off chats, Advance Care Planning is something that evolves over time and we create the open and honest environment to make it easy for patients and their families. Those conversations help to ensure that everyone is clear about what is important. For patients it helps them to become more accepting of what is happening and they experience a decreased sense of anxiety.
Some people might not feel comfortable talking about how they want to be cared for and their end of life wishes but not talking about it may cause upset, anxiety and distress for all concerned.
It’s a healthy, and easier, conversation to have with family when people are well – ask your family about their preferred place of care and death should they become ill, when they’re older, and ask if they have shared this with their GP. Those wishes might specify wanting to be in a hospice or at home in the last days or life or, simply, the objects and people they want around them, or specific activities they want to happen – from family meals and favourite music to being outdoors and letters they want to leave loved ones.
I’ve had the discussion with my own family and learned that one of the most important things to my Dad would be always looking smart with spotless clothes, even at the end of his life. I never knew that was something that was so important to him. Knowing his wish means I can ensure it happens and that is hugely comforting for him and for the rest of the family.”