Dying to know

Have you had the conversation? If you are an Australian, than statistically you have not.

 Now this topic is not a conversation starter that you should necessarily try out on a first date- if for some reason you do and you manage to secure yourself a second date then good on you! But I am thinking ease into the big questions until our society catches up.

If you are at a BBQ maybe don’t start the night off talking about death- or dying because you will be acused of bringing down the mood and making people feel awkward.

It is not a topic that even immediate family members will have with each other. The topic is too confronting.

There is a lot of missed opportunities in avoiding these conversations within  families and close friends.

I am open to the topic but have not pushed the envelope with my parents in relation to them handing in their dinner plate as Kathy Lette once said.

In my profession as a nurse I see a medical profession incapable of talking to their patients about dying. Instead they are focussed on test after test, as it should be, up to a point-but there comes a time when the patient and their Doctor need to sit and talk about maybe not doing much. Except keeping the patient comfortable and free of pain.

I think doctors fear having the conversation just as much as patients fear it being delivered to them.

It has been joked about for as long as I can remember, that there are only 2 certainties in life- death and taxes. The later we all talk openly about as a society but we struggle with talking about dying.

I teach a certificate III in assistant in nursing course to year 12 high school students. One day I needed to teach them  about advanced health care directives. Not an easy sell for a bunch of 17-18yr olds. Many grown ups don’t even know what they are, or how important they are.

Trying to relate it to them some way, I asked them about their Year 12 formal dresses- they described the colours of their dresses or  gowns (as I was corrected), they outlined the designs in exact detail, they knew how their hair was going to be styled- some even had photos of famous celebrities hair styles to show me. They all knew with such certainty what they wanted- they knew who they were going with- what suit  they would be wearing. They also knew how they were arriving-

I got them to write all these details down. They were confident, relaxed and in control. 

I collected their descriptions. I then handed them back out at random, making sure they did not go back to the original author.

“So class – now what ever is in front of you, is what you will be wearing  to your formal”their smiles were fading.

“Also you will all be wearing your hair up in pig tails !”

They looked at me- some of them got worked up others knew it was only an exercise and were nonplussed.

I then explained how an advanced health care directive was a conversation that you have with your family and GP about what you want to happen in the end stages of your life- as in no CPR or being at home with palliative care nurses assisting your family to care for you. 

An advanced health care directive is all about you having choices and not being made to wear pigtails at your  Year 12 formal.

In this moment of your life at the very end you don’t want it sabotaged by others. Talk and record your wishes about dying -after all it is a part of life


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