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There are many ways of helping when death approaches

This year’s Dying Matters Awareness Week challenges the public to think about how they can help those caring for people nearing the end of life

This years Dying Matters Awareness Week challenges the public to think about how they can help those caring for people nearing the end of life

Dying Matters Awareness Week has been running since 2009 and has always been rooted in conversation.

The campaign was launched to encourage people to talk about dying, death and bereavement, and to get plans in place through these conversations. Plans such as making your will, planning your funeral, deciding on organ donation and planning your future care. And writing these plans down it is no use making decisions if nobody knows where to find your instructions.

In recent years, the remit of the week has expanded a little so we now also talk about getting your financial affairs in order after all, planning a

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This year’s Dying Matters Awareness Week challenges the public to think about how they can help those caring for people nearing the end of life


Planning is an important part of end of life care. Picture: Alamy

Dying Matters Awareness Week has been running since 2009 and has always been rooted in conversation. 

The campaign was launched to encourage people to talk about dying, death and bereavement, and to get plans in place through these conversations. Plans such as making your will, planning your funeral, deciding on organ donation and planning your future care. And writing these plans down – it is no use making decisions if nobody knows where to find your instructions.

In recent years, the remit of the week has expanded a little so we now also talk about getting your financial affairs in order – after all, planning a funeral is all well and good, but is there the money to pay for it? Lasting power of attorney, do not resuscitate orders and advance decisions to refuse treatment are also all part of the mix.

Helping others

All this remains at the heart of Dying Matters, but this year we want to change the conversation a little. People still need to make these decisions for themselves, but we also want them to start looking at how they can help others. So, this year’s theme is What Can You Do? We face some remarkable challenges in end of life care, so we want to challenge the public: what can you do?

'Nobody wants anyone to spend their final days wanting to be somewhere else'

We know from previous opinion polls and surveys that, of those who express a preference, most people want to die at home. Home might be a care home: the main thing is that it is a place that people know and where they feel comfortable and safe. However, about 50% of deaths occur in hospital, and although the care received in hospital is excellent, nobody wants anyone to spend their final days and hours wanting to be somewhere else.

Government promise

In 2016 the government published its national commitment on end of life care, which puts the dying person at the heart of it, and contains the promise that people should be able to die where they want, without the standard of care being any different from a hospital setting.

This is going to be a big challenge for health and social care, but it is also going to be a challenge for us all. Increasingly we are all going to find that people we know – neighbours, colleagues, friends from the pub or coffee shop – are caring for someone who has chosen to die at home. If your neighbour is caring for their dying spouse at home, there are ordinary tasks that become a struggle: walking the dog, mowing the lawn, collecting someone from the station. Hence our challenge: what can you do?

The situation everyone wants to avoid is an emergency readmission to hospital in the final days or hours of life when someone has chosen to die at home. Nobody wants this. As a friend or neighbour, the seemingly minor help you can offer may enable someone to die peacefully at home. So, we challenge ourselves, and society: what can you do?

Dying Matters Awareness Week runs from 8-14 May. To find out more go to Dying Matters. Run your own event or find out what’s happening locally and get involved. Whatever you do, let us know how it went.


About the author

Toby Scott is communications manager for the National Council for Palliative Care

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