Surveys have shown that around 80 per cent of Australians consider talking about end of life is important. Sadly, only 20 per cent of people actually do it.
People put it off with excuses like being too young or too busy, which can lead to it being too late.
End Of Life Doula, Kit Bewley is one of those rare women who offers practical and emotional support to those wanting help fulfilling their end-of-life needs and wishes.
“When I tell people what I do, there’s a mixed response. Some people are very interested as they’ve heard about Doulas – a woman of service – in the context of birth. Others become slightly uncomfortable,” Kit says.
A big part of what Kit does is provide end of life education and she encourages everyone – young or old, healthy or ill to consider discussing end of life openly with family and friends.
“Death is unavoidable; there really is no escaping it,” Kit says.
“I’ve found that people actually want to talk about death. And, when there’s full consent to the discussion, there’s always a lot to say.”
Many people may wish to reach life’s full stop in the comfort of their own home. You would think it would be a simple request but Kit explains that it involves the input and support of more than a dozen people to make it possible.
“Statistics show that more than 80 per cent of people would prefer to die at home. The reality is that only 14 per cent of people actually do,” Kit says. “There’s countless health care workers and service providers that step in and out of the process depending on the needs of the person at various stages. Organising all this requires a lot of planning and support from loved ones.
“In past generations, dying at home was facilitated by family members but nowadays our families are smaller and more dispersed.
“We are also an increasingly DIY society; one where independence and self-reliance are held in high regard. We are still told about the importance of ‘asking for help’ but we don’t always have someone to ask or don’t want to ask due to not wanting to be a burden on them,” she said.
Kit advises that, before you start a conversation about death, you first need to reflect on your life.
“Ask yourself, ‘What do I value?’ and ‘What does quality of life mean to me?’ because it’s different for everyone. These things will greatly inform your discussions and decisions. It’s also important to show respect and be patient with the person you want to have this discussion with, as it can be a confronting topic.
“Some people may not want to listen so remember this is an ongoing topic so start with a soft approach and explain that this is something that’s important to you.”
Kit says these types of tricky discussions are often made easier when they are less formal and when you are side by side as opposed to sitting opposite each other. In the car on a long drive, working in the garden or walking on a beach are all good places to start approaching the subject.
“It is a great act of love to be able to care for someone in the way they want at life’s end. And, it’s a great act of love to give your loved ones the information to enable that to happen. If these discussions come from a place of love, it really enriches the life you still have. Death has the capacity to snap life into focus. It’s most certainly death’s superpower.”
To explore this topic further and get more tips on having end of life discussions, visit www.dyingtotalk.org.au