National Palliative Care Week will encourage Aussies to lift taboo on talking and planning about death
Most people plan well for the start of life, but poorly for the end, despite the fact that both life events have equal importance and impact on a family. During National Palliative Care Week, 24-30 May, Palliative Care Australia (PCA) will be asking Australians to think about what they want at the end of their lives. The theme for the week is ‘Dying to talk: Talking about dying won’t kill you’, encouraging Aussies to lift the taboo on talking about and planning for death.
PCA CEO Liz Callaghan said the aim of the week is to get people to start talking well ahead of death so when the time comes, their family and friends know their wishes. “There’s no ‘right’ time to have this conversation, and it’s too important to put off. An Advance Care Plan is one way you can organise your thoughts about your future care, and you should update it as you age to ensure it is keeping pace with your changing health needs and wishes,” said Ms Callaghan. An Advance Care Plan should discuss the individual’s wishes and values along with medical considerations. All these will go towards ensuring they will get the care they want in the place of their choice.
Too many Australian families find themselves having to make tough decisions about a loved one’s care without knowing what they really want. These decisions are then being made at a highly emotional and stressful time. “The important but difficult conversation needs to happen when we are well, when we are lucid and when we can consider our options thoughtfully,” she said.
PCA is also encouraging Australians to get their family together to celebrate life and to talk about death. They might do this over a cup of coffee, a meal or at one of our free trivia nights in capital cities during palliative care week. “There is also evidence that talking about your end of life wishes contributes to better quality of life and improves interactions with the health system,” she said.
For people who are dying, there is only one chance to get it right for themselves, their family, friends and community. “Our lives are bookended by two momentous events — birth and death. The way we die will stay with those who love us long after we are gone. If we die well, our wishes known and carried out, then our family and friends will take a great deal of comfort in that. This is one of the most positive elements of palliative care — the opportunity it gives us to help every Australian die well,” said Ms Callaghan.