I’ve noticed a lot of awareness days, weeks, even months, lately. National Diabetes Week and NAIDOC Week are just two that come to mind from recent weeks.
There are some weird and wacky ‘days’ too. Some of these revolve around the celebration of various types of food. Most originate from the United States. Where else would there be a National Junk Food Day? Not all of these days have merit.
One awareness day that does have merit but is not as widely known, yet the message is becoming increasingly more important to baby boomers, is Dying to Know Day which is celebrated on Wednesday, 8 August.
As creatures who love to organise, we spend a lot of time planning certain aspects of our future – birthdays, weddings, renovations. Many young couples even have birth plans now, yet we give very little thought to how we want our final goodbye to play out.
We have all heard that the only certain things in life are death and taxes. Yet only 25% of Australians have had an end-of-life discussion with a partner or family member. If death is a part of life why don’t we make more plans for it?
In Western culture it is almost taboo to start a conversation at the dinner table with the words “I’ve been thinking about how I want to die”. Those conversations are often left to the very frail, or the very sick – to those for whom death is imminent. Often at this point it is too late to put any real plans in place. We’re simply reacting to the situation and adding to the duress of the moment.
Yet dying is one of life’s certainties. So we might as well get proactive about it – the planning that is, not the dying.
Dying to Know Day is a reminder to work out what is important to you, and to let your family know about it. It is also an opportunity to learn about the services that are available in your local community, such as accessing palliative care and the possibility of dying at home.
If you think about it, and I mean really think about it, and you had the choice, where would you prefer to be when you eventually pass away. At home? In a hospital? Somewhere else?
Seven out of ten Australians currently die in hospital yet the research suggests most of us would prefer to spend our final days in our own home, and in many cases it is possible to arrange this.
Warren Buffett once said ‘Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing’. I think he was on to something and not just from a finance perspective. Don’t let your failure to plan mean you are denied the opportunity to pass away with dignity and respect. You’ve earned it and you deserve it.
Use this month and the resources available at www.palliativecarewa.asn.au to start your thinking and a conversation with those close to you about what your wishes are for your last days. You’ve hoped to live life on your own terms. A plan will maximise the chances that the end of your life here on earth will be as close to your own terms as possible.