Dying to Know Day, on August 8th, is an annual day dedicated to bringing to life conversations and community actions around death, dying and bereavement. Dying to Know Day is a social movement aimed at destigmatizing the discussion of dying.

Sharon Billings, an Advance Care Planning Clinician with Alfred Health, says 50 percent of us will lose the ability to make decisions about our care towards end of life.

“It’s important to start these conversations early, the best time is when you are well and your health is stable.  Do your loved ones a favour and let them know what kind of decisions you would want them to make if you became unable to do it for yourself.”

She says that contemplating our own mortality can make us uncomfortable and can act as a barrier to having  these conversations about death and dying with our own families and patients.

”We need to normalise conversation about end of life by offering everyone the opportunity to participate. People are clear about what is important for them to lead happy and meaningful lives, they also have their views about the way in which they want to die, and we just need to ask them.”

Sharon, and many other Alfred Health staff, are witness to the suffering and stress that family members go through when their loved one loses capacity to make decisions, but hasn’t made it clear what they want.

“Research shows us that families who have had these conversations are much less stressed anxious and depressed after their loved one has died because they aren’t burdened with guilt and wondering if they have made the right decision.”

She encourages staff to start talking with family about their values, what they enjoy in life and what would be an unacceptable way to live if they could not make their own decisions.   And to also have these conversations with their patients.

“It doesn’t need to be a lengthy conversation, but simply incorporated into daily patient care, offering the patient the opportunity to talk about what matters to them in life, and referring them to the Advance Care Planning team who can help further.

“It’s important to give our patients the time, listen with empathy and compassion, and respond in a way that they feel heard, not pushing it aside.”

Dying to know day offers all staff at Alfred Health the opportunity to consider the importance of having conversations about end of life and reduce the stigma and discomfort in having these conversations. While our primary focus is on adding quality of life we need to regard the provision of a quality end of life as being equally important.

If you would like help or support with Advance Care Planning, please contact the Alfred Health Advance care Planning service on 9076 6642.

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