People from across Suffolk are being encouraged to talk openly about death as part of a national campaign designed to break down taboos and make dying well part of a good life.
Health and care partners from across the county are encouraging people of all ages to start planning for their futures in the run up to Dying Matters awareness week, which begins on Monday (13 May).
The drive comes following the publication of the Suffolk Annual Public Health Report in September, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of putting plans in place early so that people can have a good death in their preferred place and the funeral of their choice.
Called ‘Lasting Legacies’, it encourages people to talk about death and make a record of their preferences by completing the ‘My Care Wishes’ folder, which details the care they would like to receive at the end of their life, including support arrangements and resuscitation.
The week also comes in response to statistics which show that nearly one in three people are not comfortable discussing dying with friends and family, while only 35% have written a will1. In addition, just 7% of people have documented their end of life preferences1, which is the only way of making sure they receive care in line with their wishes if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves.
During the week, people are being encouraged to share their bucket lists by completing the sentence “before I die, I want to…” in text or by recording videos, before posting them on social media using the hashtag #LastingLegacies
NHS West Suffolk and NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will also be sharing stories from local people with first-hand experience of death and dying to encourage others to start the conversation.
Dr Lindsey Crockett, the lead GP for the end of life programme at Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG, said: “It is time we talked about death. We will all die, yet we fail to prepare.
“Grief is hard anyway, without having the trauma of trying to guess your loved one’s last wishes. This awareness week gives us a real opportunity to start the conversation and recognise that preparing for death is our right, and can also help empower our families by ensuring we leave a positive legacy behind.”
Cllr James Reeder, cabinet member for health with Suffolk County Council, said: “Many of us face barriers that stop us talking about dying but these conversations are essential when it comes to preparing ourselves and our loved ones for our own mortality.
“By putting plans in place earlier and thinking about what matters to us and our family, it may be possible to die ‘well’, and in the place of our choosing. It’s only by talking that we can agree what is really important to us and put plans in place to make that happen.”
The campaign has been backed by an alliance of health and care partners across the county, including West Suffolk and Ipswich and East Suffolk clinical commissioning groups, East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, Suffolk County Council and West Suffolk Hospital.
Dr Rosalind Tandy, a GP in West Suffolk, said: “Many people find it hard to talk about death and dying, and it remains one of the biggest taboos in our society.
“We want to encourage people to talk openly about dying and plan ahead so that they can make the right choices about end of life care, where they want to die and their plans for their funeral. Talking about death won’t bring it closer – but sharing our wishes well in advance will make it easier for our loved ones when we do reach the end of our lives.”
To read the Annual Public Health Report, visit www.healthysuffolk.org.uk/jsna/reports/annual-public-health-report
For more information about Dying Matters awareness week, which has the theme “Are we ready?”, go to www.dyingmatters.org/
1. Statistics taken from a survey carried out by Dying Matters in 2016.