Each year in May, Dying Matters and its coalition members host an Awareness Week to place the importance of talking about dying, death and bereavement firmly on the national agenda. With 83% of the British population admitting they were uncomfortable talking about death and dying, last year’s awareness week focused on ‘having the big conversation’ and why talking about death was so important. The 2017 campaign highlighted the difficulties we have in talking about and planning for death and offered tips on how to improve the end-of-life experience for both themselves and their loved ones.

In 2017, the Dying Matters website saw record numbers of visitors to the website, and the hashtag #BigConversation was used more than 16,000 times during the awareness week, a 73% increase on the hashtag used in 2016. As a result of greater awareness in 2017, this year’s Dying Matters Awareness is focused around ‘what can you do’ encouraging people to take five simple steps to plan for their end of life.

Tell your loved ones about your wishes
We are all aware that death is inevitable. However, by not talking about your end of life wishes with loved ones, when the time comes, they may be unsure what you really wanted. Talking about death won’t make it a reality. In fact, not talking about death could make it more difficult for you loved ones to deal with it when the time finally comes.

Sometimes it may not be talking about death that’s daunting. It could simply be starting the conversation that’s worrying you. One of the best ways to begin the conversation is using humour to break the ice or using recent celebrity deaths or topics in the media as a starting point. By beginning to tell your loved ones about your wishes, you have the opportunity to share what you would like to happen, and likewise, what you wouldn’t.

Write your Will
Recent figures released in 2017 have identified more than half of British people have not written their Will and almost four in 10 people over 55 have no Will at all. With your Will outlining how you want your assets to be shared when you pass away, having a Will in place not only gives you peace of mind now, it makes it easier for your family when the time comes. Although you can outline your final wishes in your Will, a pre-paid funeral plan is another way to ensure you get the send-off you have hoped for.

Prepare for your funeral in advance
In the last 12 years, the average cost of a funeral has risen by 103% to £3,897 and this is only set to continue, with projections suggesting the cost of a funeral in 20 years’ time could be as high as £12,749.

To help relieve your family of worries and uncertainty at a difficult time, and with funeral costs continuing to rise, purchasing a pre-paid funeral plan now could help save money. As well as locking in the cost of your funeral director’s services at today’s prices, the added benefit of a pre-paid funeral plan is to help provide peace of mind for you and your family and it allows you to outline exactly how you want your funeral to be carried out.

Think about future care
We can never predict the care we might need in later life so it’s best to be prepared. Every day people are no longer able to make decisions by themselves due to becoming mentally incapable through illness such as dementia, meaning it pays to be prepared by having a Power of Attorney in place. A Power of Attorney (POA) allows you to appoint someone to make decisions for you should you become unable to do so and gives you the added confidence of knowing your future is in the hands of someone you trust.
As a Power of Attorney has to be set up before the individual loses mental capacity, this should be set up now, to save your family added stress in years to come.

Register to be an organ donor
The UK strategy of ‘Taking Organ Transplantation to 2020’ set a target to increase organ donation consent rates from 57% in 2012 to 80% by 2020 in a bid to match the rates of some of the best countries in the world. Unfortunately, since 2013, this has only increased by 5% meaning almost four in 10 families approached did not agree for their loved ones’ organs to be donated. If your family are aware of your wishes in regards to organ donation, they are more likely to agree to donation with nine out of 10 families agreeing in 2016/17.

If you haven’t told your loved ones that you want to be an organ donor then do it today.  However difficult this may be, speaking with your loved ones and sharing your wishes will be beneficial in the long-term and save your loved ones unnecessary stress. Make sure your wishes are known. For advice on guidance on what you can do, keep up to date with Dying Matters Awareness Week running from the 14th – 20th May in 2018.

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