The New Year often gets people thinking of the year ahead, but not so quickly thinking of how many years they have left. Planning for the end of life is often an overlooked and sensitive subject, but is an essential one for all people young and old. We want people to talk about their own end of life issues with friends, family and loved ones in order to make ‘a good end of life and death’ possible.
West Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is encouraging people to talk openly about dying, death and bereavement. We want you to take the simple steps that can make a big difference when dying or bereaved. Whether it is through sharing your wishes with someone close, registering to become an organ donor, writing a will, considering taking out a funeral plan or making an effort to speak to a friend or relative about what their wishes are.
It is never too early to start thinking about what you want to happen towards the end of your life. There are still things you can put in place for the future, even if this is not something on your horizon just now.
Many of us have specific wishes about where we would like to be cared for, what treatment we would not want, or what we would like to happen after our death. Macmillan Cancer Support recently found that almost three quarters of cancer patients in England who die in hospital beds wanted to be cared for and to die at home, roughly 36,000 each year.
Dr Simon Frampton, local GP and board member of NHS West Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “Although it is sometimes hard for lots of people to think about the end of life, it comes to us all and it is a topic which needs serious planning and discussion.
“Planning ahead is essential, allowing you to put your mind at ease and say those important goodbyes. With good planning the knock on effects of death for loved ones can be significantly lessened.
“Even the slightest of subjects left unresolved can cause arguments and disputes within a family after death. Making a will is extremely important and setting out what you want for your funeral is vital for your family and relatives after your death.”
Here is a list of suggested things you could consider when planning for those last weeks, months and years of life:
- 1. Start to make a plan: You need to consider the kind of care you would like towards the end of your life. This includes where you would like to be cared for and if there is any treatment you know you would not want even if it meant that your life might be shorter for not having it.
You can read more on this by visiting http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/endoflifecare/documents/planning_your_future_care%5B1%5D.pdf
It sometimes isn’t possible to be cared for and to die at home as most of us wish. Currently, more than half of us die in hospitals.
It is possible to refuse treatments, in advance, by making an Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment (living will) and giving a copy to your doctor and to your next of kin. This would only be referred to if you become unable to make decisions for yourself. If you have not made an Advance Decision, and become so ill that you are unable to make decisions for yourself about your end of life care, your next of kin will be consulted by medical staff to help them to find out what is known of your previously expressed wishes, in order to help them to make decisions in your best interests..
You can read more on this by visiting http://www.adrt.nhs.uk
If these are things which are important to you, then it is wise to make and document decisions early in case you become unable to decide at a later date.
You can nominate a proxy to make health decisions for you, should you become unable. Most people do not feel the need to do this but you may want to consider this is you are alone and have no family. This is called a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for health and welfare and is different from the more commonly known LPA for property and finances.
You can read more on this by visiting https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/245571/LPA114_Health_welfare_LPA.pdf
2. Consider legal and financial matters: Make a will as soon as possible, seeking legal help if required. This legally binding document means your wealth, however big or small has to be distributed the way you set out.
If you die without a will, there are certain rules which dictate how your money, property or possessions should be allocated. This may not be the way that you would have wished.
You can read more on this by visiting: https://www.gov.uk/make-will.
Organising a Lasting Power of Attorney (for property and affairs) is also possible. It means nominating a next of kin, a close friend or your solicitor to take care of your personal finances, property and other assets should you become unable to do it yourself.
3. How would you like to be remembered?: Are there any messages you would like to leave for loved ones? Lasting reminders, such as a ‘memory box’ or video message are a great way to provide loved ones with lasting fond memories. These can be started at any age.
4. Plan funeral arrangements: Decide whether you would like to be buried or cremated when you die. Think about what kind of service you would like and don’t be afraid to plan what you want. Do you want it to be a celebration of your life or the conventional ceremony? Consider which music, hymns and readings you would like as well as people you want to attend. Write this down and give to family members or put it in your will.
5. Organ donation: An organ transplant can dramatically improve or save someone’s life, but they depend entirely on the generosity of donors and their families.
Family and friends can overrule your decision to donate your organs after your death, so it is important to discuss your wishes with them as organ and tissue donation will be discussed with them in the event of your death.
You can join the register at www.organdonation.nhs.uk/ukt, or by calling NHS Blood and Transplant on 0300 123 23 23.
Dr Karen Groves, palliative medicine consultant at Southport & Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust and Queenscourt Hospice said: “Dying and end of life is an important topic for everyone to think and talk about. It is essential people are aware of the wishes of their loved ones and speak openly about these. Making future plans goes a long way to ensuring conversations between clinicians, patients and families are easier at a very emotionally traumatic time.
“Death and dying is considered to be a sensitive subject, but that shouldn’t mean we avoid it altogether. It is one of the only things in our lives that we can guarantee is going to happen and so thinking about plans for when you die is a must. Dying matters – let’s talk about it” (http://dyingmatters.org/)
Notes to editors:
- The term ‘a good death’ is used in accordance with terminology used by Dying Matters, which is a broad based and inclusive national coalition of 30,000 members, which aims to change public knowledge, attitudes and behaviours towards dying, death and bereavement.
- Macmillan report finds thousands unable to die at home: http://www.ncpc.org.uk/news/macillan-report-finds-thousands-unable-die-home