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Golden Charter > News & Advice > Dying Matters Awareness Week: Let’s start the conversation

Dying Matters Awareness Week: Let’s start the conversation

07 May 2024 | 2 min read time

Dying Matters Awareness Week is an annual campaign led by Hospice UK. For 2024, the campaign is shifting its focus towards conversations about death and grief specifically between healthcare professionals, patients and their families.

‘Events like Dying Matters Awareness Week are a great opportunity to promote communication skills to health professionals, in addition to empowering people to be more open with friends, family, colleagues and clinicians.’ – Dr Lucy Pain, Palliative Medicine Consultant at North London Hospice .

Why Talking About Death Matters

In a 2023 survey, the Co-op found that one third of us (33%) are uncomfortable talking to loved ones about our own death, with not wanting to worry those close to us being the main barrier in communication. Talking to a relative or friend about our own mortality can be complicated, but is talking to a healthcare professional just as hard? Dr Lucy Pain voiced that it can be challenging on both sides of the conversation. For healthcare providers “it can be difficult to know what individual people want to know. There is often anxiety from both family members and health professionals about causing harm by taking away hope.” Fear of the unknown is something we may experience, both as a patient and a family member, but by making our expectations clear and engaging in conversations around this subject, we can dispel fear, alleviate anxiety, and foster deeper connections with one another.

Breaking Taboos

Throughout history, death has been shrouded in taboo. It's time to normalise discussions and empower individuals to express their fears and wishes. Talking matters and the way we talk about death matters just as much. When it comes to talking about our end-of-life wishes, there are no one-size-fits-all rules. According to Hospice UK, 45% of us would prefer direct language when talking about death, while 33% prefer euphemistic language. Euphemisms are also preferred by younger people.* Likewise, when it comes to the use of medical terminology, if you don’t fully understand a term or you’d prefer official terminology to be used sparingly, just let your healthcare professional know. However you choose to have the conversation, all that matters is that it’s open, honest and compassionate. Remember that healthcare professionals are only human and can find these conversations tough too. You may find using the Hospice UK Talking Matters quiz useful to identify your preferred communication style and learn how to navigate conversations with health professionals.

Empowering End-of-Life Choices

Conversations about death empower individuals to make informed end-of-life decisions and talking about it now will help later. Whether it's expressing preferences for medical treatment, discussing funeral arrangements or articulating values and beliefs, open dialogue ensures that our wishes are honoured and respected. In a 2023 survey conducted by Hospice UK, it was found that only 41% of recently bereaved people said that healthcare professionals made it clear that their loved one was going to die. While we can never be fully prepared to lose someone we love, managing our expectations for communication with a healthcare provider can ease some of the stress of this time. “It really helps health professionals if you tell them exactly what you want to know. Address concerns by explaining that you don’t want to make unrealistic plans or goals,” explained Dr Lucy Pain.

Join us

Head to Hospice UK for support, further resources and information on where you can find in-person events. If you’re in Scotland, Good Life, Good Death and Good Grief is running a de-mystifying death week, also from 6-12 May.

Together, let's break the silence.

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