Dying wishes: An uncomfortable but vital conversation topic

15 January 2018
Have you broached the subject of your dying wishes with your loved ones yet? It's never too early.

Have you been brave enough to broach the subject of your dying wishes with your loved ones? Would you rather be brought home from hospital to pass away peacefully if you were ill? Do you want to be buried or cremated? Have you thought about what you'd like at your funeral? And do your loved ones know?

According to recent research carried out by older people's charity Age UK, more than one-third of people are afraid to bring up these topics with their friends and family, which means that their wishes may not be honoured in their final days and immediately after their passing.

While no one wants to think about leaving partners, children and grandchildren behind, dying wishes are important to discuss, so what is the best way to go about it?

How many people disclose their dying wishes?

Age UK found that over one-third of people do not feel comfortable talking about their dying wishes and two-fifths are unaware of what their loved ones' dying wishes would be.

Half of the 2,000 survey respondents said they didn't want to broach the matter because they were worried about upsetting their loved ones, while 30 per cent didn't want to cause offence.

Meanwhile, 25 per cent of those questioned admitted that they simply didn't know how to bring up the topic of dying wishes and 22 per cent didn't want to upset themselves.

What's more, 20 per cent of respondents felt they would never be able to find a right time and place to bring up the issue and 19 per cent didn't want to give it any thought at all. But by ignoring the matter, people could be risking their final days being handled in a way that they are not happy with.

Why you need to have this conversation with loved ones

It's not nice to have to think about leaving your loved ones behind one day, but Age UK is hoping that its new resources - which include a book and a film designed to deal with some of the more sensitive aspects of the subject - will help more people to broach the topic with their friends and family - even with very young family members.

If you don't broach the subject, you could find your possessions distributed in a way that you wouldn't have wanted after you are gone, which could cause upset to those closest to you.

With this in mind, you need to find a time when you're relaxed yet willing to discuss sensitive aspects of the issue. Turn off the TV, gather everyone around and remember, a cup of tea always helps.

Lesley Carter, Programme Head of the Malnutrition Taskforce and Head of Health Influencing at Age UK, commented: "We know that having the confidence to start a conversation about dying and death is very hard - we struggle to find the right time, the right words and we are terrified of upsetting the other person and ourselves.

"We have written this bright, well-illustrated book and film that can be used to explore this issue with children, adults and professionals. We've explained why it is important to talk about dying and death, given ideas of how you could start a conversation, what you may want to say.

"Obviously, we are all different, you will find your own words. We hope that these resources will give you the confidence to give it a go."

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