18th May 2015

Dying Matters Awareness Week

St Richard’s Hospice is encouraging people to think about how they would like to experience death and bereavement as part of a national campaign.

People across the West Midlands risk missing out on having their end of life wishes met and leaving their affairs in a mess for their families to sort out because they haven’t planned for their death, according to a new study released by the Dying Matters Coalition.

Today’s ComRes research, released to coincide with Dying Matters Awareness Week (18-24 May) finds that although the majority of people surveyed in the region think it is more acceptable to talk about dying now than it was 10 years ago, discussing dying and making end of life plans remains a taboo, as a majority think that people in Britain are uncomfortable discussing dying, death and bereavement.

Although 30% of people in the West Midlands say they think about dying and death at least once a week, 76% – the highest of any region – believe that people in Britain are uncomfortable discussing dying, death and bereavement.

  • Only 33% of adults in the West Midlands say they have written a will, 35% that they have registered as an organ donor or have a donor card, 34% that they have taken out life insurance, 24% that they have talked to someone about their funeral wishes and 4% that they have written down their wishes or preferences about their future care, should they be unable to make decisions for themselves.
  • Just 15% of people in the region say they have asked a family member about their end of life wishes.

Despite this failure to talk about dying and plan ahead, 72% of residents agree that if people in Britain felt more comfortable discussing dying, death and bereavement it would be easier to have our end of life wishes met.

The research also finds that the majority of people across the West Midlands (83%) agree that quality of life is more important than how long they live for.

Across the region, over three-quarters of people (76%) agree that providing end of life care should be a fundamental part of the work of the NHS.

During Dying Matters Awareness Week, 18th -24th May, St Richard’s Hospice will be supporting people to think about what is important to them, to talk about their wishes for end of life with their loved ones and to ensure that appropriate plans are in place.

The Dying Matters campaign is asking members of the public to take five simple steps to make their end of life experience better, both for themselves and for their loved ones: to write a Will; to record their funeral wishes; to plan future care and support; to consider registering as an organ donor and to discuss their wishes with loved ones.

The hospice will be creating a ‘thought board’ throughout the week, and will ask people to record their thoughts about death by completing the sentence “Before I die I want to…” The board will be displayed at the hospice in Wildwood Drive during the week.

David Knight, Chaplain at St Richard’s Hospice, said; “It’s not weird or depressing to think about what we would like when our lives draw to a close; it’s sensible. It may even be life-enhancing to spend time recognising that all of us will die and to learn to focus on the things that are most important to us.”

St Richard’s Hospice is also supporting The University of Worcester which will be hosting a special tree in its main reception at St John’s Campus throughout Dying Matters Awareness Week. People will be encouraged to write down their thoughts on death, dying and bereavement and stick them on the tree. There will also be a stand where people can pick up information about support services available.

In addition, people can drop-in to a one-off session on Thursday, May 21st in the morning to talk to other people about their views on death, dying and bereavement.

The event is being hosted by the Centre for Palliative Care, which the University and St Richard’s Hospice founded together in 2013.

Members of the Centre for Palliative Care, from both the University and St Richard’s Hospice will be available to talk to at the event on May 21st.

Speaking today, Claire Henry, Chief Executive of the Dying Matters Coalition said: “We need to change the nation’s approach to dying, so that all of us become better at making our end of life wishes known and asking our loved ones about theirs. Talking about dying and planning ahead may not be easy, but it can help us to make the most of life and spare our loved ones from making difficult decisions on our behalf or dealing with the fallout if we haven’t got our affairs in order.”

Professor Mayur Lakhani, a practising GP and Chair of the Dying Matters Coalition added: “There are encouraging signs that talking about dying is becoming less of a taboo than previously, but too many people are continuing to avoid facing up to their own mortality and are not putting plans in place. The public and health professionals alike need to become more comfortable talking about dying and discussion options for end of life care. We know that many people have strong views about their end of life wishes, but unless they talk about them and plan ahead they are unlikely to be met.”

Find out more about Dying Matters Awareness Week.