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Talking About Dying: blog
As a society, we aren’t really sure what to say when someone is dying.
The Talking About Dying report from the Royal College of Physicians, which has just been published, says that doctors and GPs need to get better at having difficult conversations with the dying.
It explains that these conversations should not just be approached in someone’s final days, but had with those who could die within 12 months and those who may be frail or terminally ill.
At St Nicholas Hospice Care, we would perhaps go one-step further and suggest that it is important that we all have these conversations throughout our lives.
The report, which is based on conversations with doctors at all levels, along with patients, carers and medical organisations, says evidence shows that those who have conversations around end-of-life earlier have better experiences, as these discussions give them choices over their future care.
However, it shouldn’t just be healthcare professionals that are confident in having these conversations, the report also recommends that family, friends and carers should be involved in the discussions too.
As an organisation, we feel this is essential. We want everyone to be able to speak comfortably about dying and death.
In the report, the Royal College of Physicians say that confidence is one of the main barriers doctors have, with many feeling uncomfortable about initiating such conversations.
As charity, we run a number of different education courses and opportunities for training across West Suffolk and Thetford. All of our training can be delivered to healthcare professionals, as well as the public.
Some of these sessions are focused on sharing expertise and knowledge while others create a space for anyone to have open conversations.
Sessions on Difficult Conversations and the Communication Toolkit, which can be part of one day end of life courses or delivered standalone sessions are offered.
While the Hospice’s GraveTalk sessions are a place where questions about life, death, society, funerals and grief can be explored.
Originally launched by the Church of England, GraveTalk is designed for everyone, not just those facing the immediate prospect of death or who have a relative who is dying, it gives people the opportunity to learn from one another in a relaxed environment.
GraveTalk is an ideal catalyst to encourage people to talk and encourage others to talk. If these conversations become the norm then more open and honest discussions can be had.
The report makes a series of recommendations for physicians and the wider healthcare system to improve the situation; including asking the patient if, they would like to have the conversation and how much information they want.
This desire to help people be better equipped at the end of their lives, or when supporting someone facing death is at the heart of the Hospice’s continued development of its services.
We have spoken to people from across the community, some who have connections with the Hospice and others who don’t, about their experiences of dying, death and bereavement.
We are now on a journey to turn what they told us into action.
By having these sort of conversations and empowering others to do the same we can help drive the social change needed to put death and dying back into the community.