It’s time to talk about death

Linda Ora believes that while planning for end-of-life care can be confronting, it is an important conversation to have. Photo: Melinda Jane
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Despite most people wishing to die at home, the stigma of talking about death is seeing more people dying in hospitals or emergency rooms.

A Wentworth Healthcare report, Caring for People at End of Life, revealed important end-of-life care discussions are happening when it’s already too late.

“What our report has highlighted is that people feel uncomfortable talking about death, which means end-of-life care discussions are starting at a time of crisis,” Wentworth Healthcare CEO Lizz Reay said.

“Under these circumstances, the person involved is often no longer able to make decisions for themselves.

“This can leave family members unprepared and can result in decisions being made that may not align with the person’s own wishes.

“The result is often unnecessary hospitalisations, or as brought to light in interviews for the report, can result in people dying in ambulances or in emergency rooms rather than at home, or in a preferred place surrounded by loved ones.”

Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District Clinical Nurse Consultant for Supportive and Palliative Care, Linda Ora, said we need to remove the stigma that exists around end-of-life care.

“The earlier that you get in and have conversations about planning for end-of-life, the more choices you have,” she said.

“With so much technology, medicine has come a long way, people can live far beyond what’s expected at some times.

“We talk about quality of living and that’s what we focus on, but at some point we know people will enter that dying stage.”

For many, technology is unable to enhance the quality of life for certain illnesses, meaning there’s no time like the present to look at our “quality of death”.

To begin the conversation, Ms Ora recommends identifying the person who would make decisions if you were no longer able to care for yourself, and then have discussions about your values and if or when you would want to withdraw from treatment.

“Dying is a normal part of life, it’s going to happen to all of us and we can positively experience that, not just for ourselves but for our loved ones we’re leaving behind,” she said.

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