THE 10th – 16th May is a week dedicated to raise awareness of death and dying. Its aim is to show people that talking and planning for the future with their loved ones is a natural part of life. This year the theme is ‘A Good Place To Die’.
Dying Matters believes in an open culture that talks about death, and where people feel able to listen and support those who are planning for end of life, who are dying and who have been bereaved. It is important during this week to have the discussion that people of all ages are in a good place when they die – physically, emotionally, and with the right care in place. Getting there means having some important conversations and taking some careful decisions.
Hospice Alliance NI is made up of four Hospices, Foyle Hospice, Marie Curie Hospice, Southern Area Hospice, and the Northern Ireland Hospice & Children’s Hospice. The Alliance works collectively to ensure that palliative care remains an important part of the health care system to help families across Northern Ireland.
Deborah Burns, Acting Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Hospice and Children’s Hospice welcomed the awareness raising.
She said: “I’m glad we are taking the time to highlight this important subject. We know that four out of five people wish to remain at home to die surrounded by their loved ones. But it is important, where possible, that families have open conversations about these wishes, without fear or anxiety.
“In our society we plan for the birth of child because this is a natural thing to do, we should approach death in the same way, as part of life. When a person becomes seriously ill and dies without having these important conversations, it can be traumatic for their family. By taking the stigma away from talking about dying we can ensure our wishes are known and reduce added stress for loved ones during end-of-life care.
“We also want to stress the importance of bereavement support. At Hospice we can support the families that have lost a loved one but there are other organisations that can offer counselling or support after a bereavement. It is always good to talk and share your emotions especially with the complex nature of grieving after a death. We have placed some information and leaflets on our website to support families to take the first steps to having these important conversations, making sure they can think about and discuss ‘a good place to die’.”
Eamon O’Kane, Deputy Director for Devolved Nations at Marie Curie said: “Death and dying can be one of the hardest things to accept but taking the time to have important conversations can make a big difference.
“Many people we support wish they’d been able to know their loved one’s wishes before they died. Being able to plan is important. It ensures that people can receive the care and support they want, where they want, and their loved ones find it just a little bit easier knowing that plans have been put in place. We know it’s not easy to about our own mortality, but it can be incredibly difficult on those you leave behind if you don’t.
“The last year has been particularly challenging and through our work supporting people whose loved ones have died, or are at end of life, we know that many have not been able to grieve in the usual ways during the pandemic. Far too many have been unable to say “goodbye” to a loved one or attend their funeral.
“These additional barriers to healing after loss are amplifying the existing challenges facing bereaved families, and it is more important than ever that we get talking. At Marie Curie we have lots of resources that can help you think, talk and plan for the end of life and how to deal with the death of a loved one.”
Donall Henderson, CEO Foyle Hospice and Chairperson of Hospice Alliance NI, said: “Dying Matters Week presents an opportunity to discuss a very sensitive and emotive subject in a very positive, open and honest way. It’s extremely important to overcome the taboo associated with death and dying. We all have a responsibility to talk about our own wishes with our loved ones to ensure we have everything in place to facilitate a good experience for ourselves and our loved ones. We’re also delighted to support Dying to Talk Café and Dying Matters Webinar which are being held as part of the programme of events in Northern Ireland.”
Liz Cuddy, CEO Southern Area Hospice Services said: “We are supporting Dying Matters Awareness Week as it highlights the importance of planning for death. People who are seriously ill should be appropriately supported to openly talk about their wishes and prepare for death with their loved ones and families. As a society we have some way to go to make such an approach a reality but this awareness raising week helps us to have open debate about it.”