Research has shown there are real advantages to having conversations about end of life care with your family, friends and carers.
There is the psychological benefit of sharing concerns and then feeling more able to cope with the problems of end of life, making those burdens lighter. You are more likely to have your wishes carried out as to where you die and receiving the treatment that you want and is appropriate to your wishes. Very importantly, it gives you a sense of control and being in charge. And the most important of all, once done, you can get on with living life to the fullest and in the present.
For your family
Most families want you to have what you would like in the way of treatment, care and funeral arrangements. If you have not had the conversation then they may only be guessing. They will feel less anxious if they know they are trying to do what you wished.
There is evidence to show that families that have talked together cope with the subsequent grief better and move on to a more normal life sooner. Spouses and partners suffer less associated physical ailments and ill health if they have talked.
Providing care can be difficult, both physically and psychologically challenging. Talking with you carers, sharing mutual concerns,
has been shown to reduce burnout in them so making it easier for them to continue without unnecessary stress and less likely that you will be able to stay where you want to be.
Medical and nursing staff
If they know your wishes they are much more likely to provide the treatment you want and not inappropriate care. If you are in hospital when you do not need or want to be then this saves considerable resources that can be used for others.
Planning is so important to living well with an illness and approaching death. However, if the plans are not communicated there can be a risk of:
- fear and upset , while alive or after death
- shock if someone has made assumptions about aspects of medical care (for example) which are incorrect
The aim of conversations may be:
- very specific, to pass on information
- about emotional support and enjoyment, either immediately or at some time in the future after death.
A conversation can help:
- to live with illness well
- to die well
- to make sure your wishes for care, support and medical instructions are known
- to build a bank of emotional memories
- to communicate the administrative practicalities, such as where documents are kept & what’s in them
Thinking through what you want to say, and how you might be heard, beforehand can improve the outcome from the conversation.
Video Presentation by Bryn Neal
During lockdown in 2021, Bryn Neal, a retired GP and Trustee of Chiltern Compass, gave this presentation on the benefits of talking about dying.
Dying, to Start a Conversation