'The importance of being in a good place to die – Dying Matters Awareness Week 2021'
SFE Director, Emma Gray, shares her unique perspective as part of Dying Matters Awareness Week 2021 (10th to 16th May).
At the age of 35, Emma’s husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Now widowed, Emma is dedicating her life to helping people who find themselves in similar tragic and difficult circumstances. As a solicitor, Emma learned some key things through working with her clients. Firstly, no two people are the same; secondly, no one wants to talk about death and dying and, finally, everyone has things that need to be sorted out.
The focus for this year’s, Dying Matters Awareness Week is the “importance of being in a good place to die”. Although the first thing that comes to mind is the location, it is vital to ensure that the emotional side of dying is in order. Part of this is ensuring that the paperwork is in place and loved ones have been consulted, so they know your wishes and where to find all the information that you have carefully prepared.
Sadly, the pandemic has seen the number of deaths leap by tens of thousands and many people have died at home or in hospital. I know what it’s like to watch a loved one die, because my husband sadly died of cancer in 2016. I’m now a passionate believer that everyone is different, and that what it means to be “in a good place to die” will therefore be unique to each person.
What is important for everyone, is that they have the chance to have the right care and support and that all their paperwork is in place, so that there are as few last-minute panics as possible. Part of the process of end-of-life planning is obviously seeing a solicitor, but it is also important for families to come together and open up the conversation about death, dying and bereavement. That means having important conversations and taking some well-thought through decisions.
The daily themes of this year’s Dying Matters Awareness Week are:
- Physically – where possible it is important to consider as part of the Advance Care Planning the place of death, whether that is at home, in hospital or in a hospice.
- Emotionally – although no one wants to think about the end of life, it is vital to talk about death to provide peace of mind that loved ones will be cared for.
- Financially – as well as ensuring that your Will is up-to-date to specify who inherits your assets on your death, it is important to have a Power of Attorney in place to nominate who will make decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself, and to specify your funeral plans.
- Spiritually – different faith groups have different traditions surrounding preparing for and celebrating death and it is important to write down your wishes to help loved ones when the time comes.
- Digitally – so much of our world has gone online, especially in the pandemic, it is vital to make sure you know how your digital assets, social media and digital legacy will be dealt with when you die.
Dying Matters Awareness Week aims to build a better understanding of people’s experiences of dying so that we can help ensure everyone is in a good place when they die. As a solicitor, I ensured that my husband’s Will was up to date but I learnt from our experiences how important conversations are, especially about where to die and emotional legacies. I realised that we know very little of people’s experiences at the end of their lives and I’m passionate about starting the conversation by sharing my story.
If you are unsure of where to start, a good first step is to meet with a solicitor who specialises in end of life, such as a member of SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly). They can help you with your Will, Lasting Power of Attorney and other areas of later life planning. However, in order to be in a “good place to die” you also need to think carefully about the physical, emotional, spiritual and digital aspects of end of life planning.