Health care professionals across Suffolk and north east Essex are encouraging people to have a conversation with their loved ones about what they would like to happen if they become ill or were approaching the end of their life.
Talking about death and dying is not easy for most of us. However, taking steps to begin the conversation is particularly important.
We have seen how people with COVID-19 become ill quickly, and are often separated from family and friends before they have chance to consider the things that would be important to them if they were nearing end of life.
The call to consider such issues with loved ones comes as Hospice UK highlights the importance of discussions about end of life wishes as part of its annual Dying Matters awareness initiative.
The charity says talking together about what we want to happen around death can make it easier for our loved ones to cope with grief.
Dr Abhijit Bagade, Consultant in Public Health Medicine at Suffolk County Council, said: “We have never in our lifetimes had to contend with such unprecedented changes to our lifestyle and threats to our health and wellbeing.
“Never before has there been such a need to talk about death and dying and capturing people’s wishes.
“There are a range of support service in the locality which can support families and friends to discuss their wishes.”
Healthcare professionals are currently being stretched by the COVID-19 crisis, but having access to details of what is important to patients about their care will help them do their best to support as many of those wishes as possible.
Hanna McDowell, Head of Therapies at St Elizabeth Hospice in Ipswich, said: “From the experience of our Emotional Wellbeing Team, which provides specialist bereavement counselling, many families struggle more with their grief if they feel that there are conversations that have been left unsaid.
“We understand that end of life conversations can be difficult to initiate, especially if a serious illness is swift, but we would encourage families to try and talk sooner rather than later about how they feel about death and any wishes they would like carried out in their memory, or even whether they would prefer to die at home or in a hospice.
“People are often surprised that it is not as hard as it sounds to have these conversations, and it can provide people with some genuine relief that their wishes have been expressed and heard.”
For more information and resources to help you begin the conversation, visit your local hospice website:
St Nicholas Hospice, Bury St Edmunds, West Suffolk
St Elizabeth Hospice, Ipswich, East SuffolkSt Helena Hospice, Colchester, North East Essex
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