So what can you do?
Every death matters, because every life matters. Every one of us, from the youngest to the oldest, deserves good quality end of life care, whoever we are, wherever we are, and whatever is bringing our life to an end.
Talking about death, dying and bereavement
Since its start in 2009 Dying Matters has encouraged people to talk about dying, death and bereavement. And we’ve asked people to follow that conversation with some actions: make a will, plan your funeral, decide on organ donation, plan your care, and then write all this down and tell someone where to find it. Because, like most things in life, dying involves a lot of decisions. Where would you like to be when you die? What treatment would you not want to have? What sort of funeral would you like to have? There is no avoiding these decisions, and if you don’t decide, then someone else will on your behalf.
For 2017, we want to extend this. We still want people to talk about death, because it’s very hard to decide for yourself if you can’t talk about it. And we still want people to make plans for themselves.
Reaching out to people in your community
But we also want people to look around, and see what they can do to help their communities deal with death. About 1% of the population dies each year, and although those deaths mostly come from older demographics, they do come from all age groups. And each death is surrounded by circles of affected, grieving people. Each death drops a stone into the pond of our lives, and spreads out to affect many of us.
We want people to start to see this. In every football crowd, on every bus, in every pub, chapel or temple, every workplace and every neighbourhood, there are people coping with death. They might be facing an early death themselves, or be caring for someone who is dying. Or they might be grieving, a process that is harder and goes on longer that society often acknowledges.
Most people, when asked, say would rather die at home, a familiar place with people and things they know. The Government wants people to die in the place of their choice while still receiving good quality care. This is good news, but will make dying at home far more common than it is now, and place huge strains on medical and social care if voluntary help doesn’t also support it.
What Can You Do?
So, our challenge for this year is “What Can You Do?” What can you do for yourself and your family? That’s easy: have the conversation and make the plans. But what can you do for your community? For your friends, neighbours, colleagues? What can you do to make their lives easier or simpler as they cope, in some way, with death? If you were in their place – and you probably have been, and certainly will be – what could people do to help you?
The answer will depend on who each of you is, how well you know each other, your skills and their needs. It might be: offer a lift, mow their lawn, walk their dog, cook a meal. It starts with the offer to help, that moment of human contact that often needs to be made several times before it’s accepted.
Dying Matters for all of us
This seems harder when the dying person is a child or young adult. It can be more emotionally upsetting, and people are so nervous about saying the wrong thing they say nothing at all. But the question still needs to be asked. Dying Matters because we all must deal with death and we all need support to do so. It’s too easy to respond with a shrug of resignation: “we’ve all got to go some time – what can you do?” We want to change that to a challenge. Dying Matters, for all of us: what can you do?
Dying Matters Campaign – National Council for Palliative Care
This year’s Dying Matters Campaign runs from 8 to 14 May #WhatCanYouDo @Dying Matters