I wish I had known …February 28, 2019 // No Comments
SAIF thanks Compassion in Dying for allowing us to re-use this article written by Barbara Monroe:
Reflections from supporting 25,000 people plan for the end of life
At Compassion in Dying we recognise the need for a large-scale culture change around death and dying.
We’re working towards end of life care being truly person centred — not just measured by proxies such as place of death — but focused on understanding each person as an individual and delivering treatment and care which is based in their values and priorities.
Moving towards person led decision making (and the power shift that
comes with that) is an essential part of enabling people to have the best end
of life experience possible.
We want people to be able to:
- Talk openly about their wishes for the end
- Make informed choices, have the opportunity
to discuss those choices with healthcare professionals and understand the
likely outcomes of decisions about treatment
- Plan their care and record their choices
Putting the voice and experience of dying people at the centre
Through our information and outreach services we have supported over 25,000 people to make decisions about their treatment and plan their care. We want to share this experience with
Recognise the value of information and honest conversations
We hear from the people we support that empowering people by giving them
the information they need to make decisions is a potent way of changing the
culture of death and dying and reducing misconceptions and fear.
One of the people featured in our report said:
“I wasn’t prepared for how quickly my
husband went downhill and I think if someone had told him earlier about what
may happen we might have been more prepared to ask about what choices he had
for his care.”
Avoid the temptation of easy fixes
With the development of person centred care, place of death quickly
became accepted as an indicator of how end of life care was meeting, or failing
to meet, the wishes of dying people.
Common understanding developed that shifting hospital deaths to home
would be a marker of success.
Yet, the data on where people want to die is in need of greater
scrutiny. A home death is not necessarily a good death, which is often
dependent on the extent and quality of support available.
If people understood the practical consequences of a home death would
some of them change their minds?
What’s more, we know that place of death is a relatively low priority
for people — who more often prioritise pain relief and retaining dignity.
To create a culture of dying that values the unique wishes of every
individual we have to look beyond these kinds of proxy measurements, and enable
people to make their own decisions about the end of life experience that is
right for them.
Challenge the idea that death is a taboo
“We don’t like to talk about death” is a common theme for events and
articles, reflecting the pervasive idea that death is seen as a taboo.
While it’s true these can be difficult conversations, labelling them as
a taboo seems counterproductive.
YouGov polling we commissioned earlier this year found that only
14% of people would feel uncomfortable having a conversation about their end of
life wishes with a healthcare professional — yet only 52% would instigate the
It’s therefore important for us to shift the common belief that people
don’t want to talk about death and dying. Healthcare professionals and people
working in charities need to be aware that many people do in fact want to talk
about death and dying. It’s often just that they don’t know where to start.
View the full report on the Compassion in Dying website.