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Byron Shire
March 22, 2023

Australians getting dead-set about dying

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As a nation, we are not always comfortable with talking about the end of our lives. Leading not-for-profit, The Groundswell Project Australia, is calling on Australians to ‘get dead set’ around death and dying as part of its annual Dying to Know campaign.

Reports show that about 70 per cent of deaths are expected and over 70 per cent of Australians want to die at home, but only 14 per cent actually do, as it takes proactive planning to help to die at home.

About 52 per cent of Australians don’t have a valid will in place, while 90 per cent of adults say that talking to their loved ones about their end-of-life wishes is important, only 27 per cent have actually had these conversations.

A national campaign to prioritise conversations

This year, the national campaign asks people of all ages and stages of life to prioritise compassionate conversations and ‘get dead set’ around the reality of death and dying – because it’s going to happen to us all. It outlines simple steps people can take around end-of-life planning, which is personal and unique to everyone.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we live, die and grieve. Early studies suggest that people in Australia who lost a loved one during the COVID pandemic (from any cause) are experiencing more grief, anxiety and depression than before the pandemic.

Research shows there is a risk that the support received by Australians dealing with death and dying is less than what is needed.

Dying to Know Day August 8

The Dying to Know campaign – which culminates on Dying to Know Day on 8 August – helps bridge this gap by improving death literacy and positivity in individuals, communities, healthcare workers and other professionals through local and community events. Death literacy is the knowledge, compassion and practical skills that enable supportive action and active decision-making around someone’s end-of-life choices.

To ‘get dead set’ is to prepare for the unique circumstances every person will face at the end of their life. By asking Australians to ‘get dead set’, the campaign invites Australians to overcome their fears or discomfort around death and take action on end-of-life planning in a way that is right for them. Australians can ‘get dead set’ in three key ways:

  1. Capture your choices in writing. Like a will, substitute decision-maker and guidance on your social media or organ donation. These could be documents, or as simple as a text or scribble on a serviette to start.

2. Have conversations with loved ones and others so they understand your wishes – and you understand theirs.

3. Prepare your send-off. Share what you want it to look like so you can be celebrated and remembered in line with your wishes.

The benefits of planning ahead

The benefits of planning for end-of-life are clear in the wake of necessary pandemic restrictions ­which impacted people’s ability to see dying loved ones, arrange or attend important rituals like funerals and see friends and family for support. By being ‘dead set’ and prepared for end-of-life, Australians can:

•Have a ‘good’ death that reflects what mattered in life.

•Have conversations to ease the anguish of loved ones through the distress, uncertainty, and finality of death.

•Leave a positive legacy that is consistent with how we want to be remembered.

•Have their lives celebrated/remembered the way they choose.

Dying to Know Campaign Manager at The Groundswell Project Australia, Cherelle Martin, says that not talking about death and dying is a significant obstacle to improving how we live and die through end-of-life planning.

Superstitions, fears, discomfort and lack of knowledge

‘Death is often over-medicalised and institutionalised. Our superstitions, fears, discomfort and lack of knowledge about dying affect our approach to end-of-life. However, we know that Australians think conversations about death are important.

‘People often feel ill-equipped to act or start a conversation. The risk here for us all is that we do not have the knowledge or understanding around how to best support a loved one who is dying, caring or grieving. Sadly, this can mean that end-of-life experiences are not aligned with an individual’s values or wishes.’

Ms Martin says by normalising conversations around death and dying, Australians can ‘get dead set’. ‘The pandemic has brought death and dying. Our mortality is a part of our collective consciousness like never before. This is an opportunity to continue to strengthen our collective approach to these important matters.’

A Dying to Know event

To register your Dying to Know event, find an event or access support for your end-of-life planning journey, visit www.dyingtoknowday.com. The campaign provides supporting resources and workshops to guide your discussions, and a toolkit to help promote your gathering or event.

People are also encouraged to join the conversation and share their experience via social media using the hashtag #GetDeadSet and #DyingToKnowDay. Don’t forget to tag @D2KDay on Facebook and Instagram.

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