Great Britain

Westmorland Homecare: discussing death and end-of-life arrangements

DISCUSSING a person's wishes when they die is a conversation that, for obvious reasons, few people really want to have.

Society isn’t very good about talking death. But why is this?

Surely something so important should be one of our most frequently-discussed topics. My message is: let's talk about it more.

It’s OK to talk about death. In fact, it’s good to talk about what we want at the end of our lives.

Death still feels, for many, like a taboo subject. Most people don’t want to dwell on it and opening a conversation with a loved one can feel awkward.

But it is a conversation that, ultimately, is best to have earlier, rather than later.

Serious illness can prompt such a discussion, but many deaths are unexpected - even if a person is frail and elderly. It’s so important to have the conversation so that you and your loved ones can know exactly what you want at the end of life.

When someone does pass away, relatives are bound to suffer grief – and that can affect their ability to think clearly and plan for the immediate future.

There are practical things that need to happen, such as registering the death and how to conduct the funeral but the conversation isn’t just about what happens after death. Importantly, any discussion around death should be full of life.

Where do you want to be at the end of your life? Who do you want around you? Do you want to be in hospital? Who do you want to talk to? What level of medical treatment do you want, whether it be aggressive interventions or care that is more comfort-focussed? Are there any things you do or don’t want to happen in your last few weeks or days? If someone has a pet, what are their wishes in terms of its future care?

If no forward planning has taken place, this all can quickly become overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to open a discussion with a relative so they know your wishes.

It is useful for someone to know the location of a list of important documents and relevant contacts - such as the bank and building society, solicitor, insurance policies, pension details, accountant etc.

None of us can avoid death, so let’s not avoid the conversation.

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