Cynthia Spencer Hospice has urged the Northampton community to start a conversation about death with a friend or relative to mark Dying Matters Awareness Week (6th-12th May).

Every year, people across the country use Dying Matters Awareness Week as a moment to encourage everyone to talk in whatever way works for them.

Palliative Care Nurse Specialist Amanda Taylor said: “I think it is important on every level for the whole of the population to talk about death and dying, from teenagers to older adults. You need to talk about this because you never know what the future holds.

“I’ve been in situations in my nursing career where someone has suddenly died or can’t speak for themselves, and their family are left to make decisions on their behalf – I’ve seen families break over this. Everyone is coming from a good place and think they are representing a parent the best but then they argue at a time when they don’t need additional stress and upset.

“If you have conversations early on it becomes part of your family language and if a crisis does come about you don’t have the added burden of making these decisions.”

Cynthia Spencer Hospice recommend everyone completes an Advanced Care Plan in order to provide clear instructions in the event of your death, or if you’re unable to speak for yourself.

An Advanced Care Plan offers people the opportunity to plan their future care and support, including medical treatment, while they have the capacity to do so.

In the plan you can clearly state your individual preferences for care, any treatment refusal plan, lasting power of attorney and funeral wishes.

“An Advanced Care Plan is a great place to start,” says Amanda. “The first section details your wishes and preferences; the second section looks at treatment refusal such as DNAR (do not attempt resuscitation) and the final section is lasting power of attorney. The Northamptonshire plan also includes a fourth section to detail funeral wishes.

“The Advanced Care plan outlines little things that make a big difference, and they are so doable. For example, I looked after a policeman who had always been very smartly dressed and he was clear in his Advanced Care Plan that he would like to have a shave every day. Another patient, a solicitor suddenly became afraid of the dark and requested a nightlight on all the time.

“This is the last gift you can give to your family. An Advanced Care Plan gives them clear instructions and the peace of mind that they are following your wishes.”

Amanda, who has been a registered nurse since 1991, now works as an End-of-Life Care Practice Development Team Leader at Cynthia Spencer Hospice.

The hospice provides information on their website on how to start conversations about death and dying sensitively.

Amanda added: “Sometimes a life event triggers a conversation, for example if a family member moves to a care home or if someone is diagnosed with a life limiting illness. However, everyone should be having these discussions. If someone mentions a song they’d like at their funeral, let’s talk about that in greater detail. It is easy to say I don’t need to, there’s nothing wrong with me now, but it’s always too soon until it’s too late.”

To find out more about how to talk about death and how to make an Advanced Care Plan, visit https://cynthiaspencer.org.uk/how-to-talk-about-death-and-dying/