I’m a very practical person and there is an obvious need for people to be involved in making arrangements for their later lives. Very understandably people don’t want to think about this until either there is no choice or that at least they have finished work and retired.
I came into this area through voluntary work in which I was involved around end-of-life care. I volunteer in a hospice and was involved in the CQC report (2016) entitled A Different Ending. I also did some advocacy work for an agency within Barnet and could see how difficult it was for those left behind when appropriate preparations haven’t been made or people hadn’t had the conversations they needed to before they were placed in a position where there was no alternative – and often at this stage they were not in a state to think clearly.
When I speak to people about why they don’t want to even begin thinking about ‘Dying Matters’ one answer is “I’m too young”. Another “there’s no need” and a third - “I might change my mind”. And of course, people do change their mind. Circumstances frequently force them to do this, yet once the framework has been set up, changing bits and pieces here and there is relatively easy.
Why is it important – well, it makes life 100% easier for the people you are with at the end. Who wouldn’t want to make it easier on those left behind when there is frequently so much grief to follow?
But first of course you have to break through the barrier of your own reluctance and then, very often, the reluctance of other family members. Imagine what it would be like if, as with one person I worked with who was dying, yet persistently refused to make a will, think about where he would like to spend his last days, or discuss it with his wife and family – all because the thought of confronting his own mortality was too much to bear – and this was someone who had worked removing mines as a bomb disposal expert in the Second World War.
His wife, eventually, managed to persuade him to see a rather lovely vicar who slotted into place so easily that in an afternoon it was done, arrangements were made, funeral discussed and his wife could, as far as it were possible, relax. A significant burden had been removed.
Finally, start to involve your family just by dropping odd comments and when they say “Oh you don’t need to think about that yet”, just look really puzzled and say “Do you really want to be loaded down with detailed decisions, many of which you’ve never even thought of – and why should you – at a time when things will be quite challenging?” Just let’s be practical – this does not mean I’m going to die tomorrow - but it will put my mind at rest if I know I have done what I can to make life easier for you”.