Awareness is the first step
Compassionate Communities, in the Western and Northern Health and Social Care Trusts, have come together for Dying Matters Week 2021, which runs from 10 to 16 May. Together we are delivering a range of events to raise awareness on the importance of being prepared to die.
Sharon Williams, Project Facilitator of Compassionate Communities NW welcomed the collaboration, ‘We are delighted to join forces with the Northern Trust, it offers an opportunity to pool resources so that we reach more people with this very important issue. On Wednesday 12th May from 10.00am to 12.30pm we are hosting a webinar, ‘The Importance of Being in the Right Place to Die’ when people can listen to experts talk about how we can be prepared – physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, digitally and with the right care in place.’
Northern Ireland’s Palliative Care Strategy
Sharon highlighted the need to raise the profile of end of life, ‘Last week the MLAs voted unanimously to include End of Life Outcomes in the Programme for Government. Northern Ireland’s Palliative Care Strategy needs to reflect the significant demographic changes that are moving faster than original predictions and must be incorporated into local government and community plans. With an ever-increasing ageing population and many more living with multiple chronic illnesses, the people of NI need support with the challenges of death, dying and bereavement through awareness, education and preparation. Covid has shone a spotlight on our lack of preparedness and yet simply talking about death helps us to be prepared. We encourage people to do just that at our regular Dying to Talk Cafés, the next café is on Tuesday, 11th May via zoom.’
What is a ‘good death’?
Sharon explains what a ‘good death’ is, ‘A good death is possible when you plan for it. Putting your house in order by writing your will, taking care of your funeral plans and registering your care preferences in an advance care plan improves the probability that your choices are actioned. When a person has made plans, they are often emotionally and spiritually in a better place when dealing with a diagnosis. Plans also help families deal with a health crisis relieving a little of the stress and anxiety.’
One of the speakers at the webinar is Margaret Rowlandson, a local lady was widowed 5 years ago after her husband Paul died from cancer. Her personal account described through a collection of poems and published in her book ‘Life After Death’, help us to understand what really matters at end of life.
Margaret urges people to plan for their future care by writing down and sharing it with family so that they know your wishes. Since her husband’s death she has written her Advance Care Plan using the Your Life, Your Choices Booklet. Margaret emphasises the importance of being prepared, ‘You want to make things as easy as possible for those left behind. I have written my will and decluttered as much as possible ensuring that my paperwork is organised with certificates, insurance documents and her will are safely stored in one place.’
Fiona Gilmour, Macmillan Service Improvement Lead from the Northern Trust commented further, ’We also want people to think of others including friends and the wider community and how they can help to support those in grief and bereavement. This could include supporting friends during difficult times by offering to help with shopping or household chores, suggesting meeting for a coffee and remembering it is okay to not know what to say. You can also help in your community by volunteering at a local charity or start to get involved with support groups. This aims to expand on conversation about dying, death and bereavement and get people actively planning and helping those who may need extra support.’
Places on the webinar and the Dying to Talk Café are free.