This is Dying Matters Awareness Week and Dementia Awareness Week, two topics that are close to our hearts and which form a significant amount of our work with private clients. Dying Matters Awareness Week is a range of events and activities with the aim of getting people to talk about dying, death and bereavement and making plans for the end of their life. Dementia Awareness week is about making the most of life while you are still living and taking action to help people suffering from dementia to hold onto normal activities and the things that they enjoy doing for as long as possible.
The uphill task faced by Dying Awareness is illustrated by a survey commissioned by the organisers which shows that talking about dying is still a subject avoided by many people. In a society where death does not form part of our daily lives (unlike in many other eras and indeed (sadly) some countries today), it has become somewhat of a taboo subject. Many people may have a superstitious belief that making arrangements for what happens after death will hasten their own demise.
The statistics highlighted by the survey are indicative of the size of this issue: 83% of the public believe people are uncomfortable discussing death whilst only 36% have made a Will, only 29% have discussed their funeral wishes with someone else and only 6% have made clear their wishes or preferences for future care.
It should be remembered that dying is primarily about the person going through the last experience of their life, but it is also about those who are left behind. The initial days, weeks and months after a death will be much easier for the surviving family if they are clear about what sort of funeral the deceased person wanted, their affairs are left in good order and there is a clear Will showing how their estate should be distributed. Facing up to dealing with these matters is, in many ways, the last actions that a person can do to take care of their surviving family.
All of us will die one day, despite the impression sometimes given by the media that if we eat the right foods and take enough exercise we will live forever. If Dying Awareness Week makes people take action to control the final aspects of their life it will have accomplished a valuable achievement.