Why now is the time to have a national conversation on death and dying

A national conversation is needed about death and dying, a leading hospice charity has said

A national conversation is needed about death and dying, a leading hospice charity has said

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Sue Ryder, which provides hospice care, has found 44% of bereaved adults would liked to have known what physical and mental changes to expect their loved one to experience in their final days.

Follow up survey

It comes as a survey by Nursing Standard and terminal illness charity Marie Curie last week found two thirds of nurses and healthcare assistants report not having sufficient time to provide good care for dying patients.

Sue Ryder surveyed 1,000 bereaved adults in the UK for its research.

Other key questions bereaved families wanted answers to include:

• Whether to bring up difficult issues with their dying family member or friend (21%) 
• How to make them more comfortable (58%) 
• Whether they should die in a more comforting environment than a hospital ward (18%)
• The last words they should say to them (40%)
• Who should be there in the final moments (36%)

The charity said advice on what to expect is among the most sought-after information on its website and use of the Sue Ryder online community for bereavement more than doubled between 2016 and 2017.

'Time to open up'

Chief executive Heidi Travis said: ‘Death is an inevitable part of all our lives, and yet in modern society we have become far more distanced from the reality of it.

‘It is unsurprising then that our survey reveals a significant number of people struggling with uncertainty about what to do when someone close to them is dying. 

‘It’s really time to open up a national conversation on death and dying with greater education and dialogue.’

She added that National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance exists to ensure those nearing the end of their life are communicated with and offered information by healthcare professionals, but said there can be inconsistencies.

To coincide with the research, Sue Ryder has produced new information for families and friends on what to expect in the lead up to death

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