Public Knowledge of End-of-Life Care Services
At National Bereavement Service, we do our very best to ensure we are a safe place for people to ask questions about future planning for death and bereavement, especially when they have no idea where else to go to find out what they need. Often that requires us to explain some of the specific terminology that is used such as lasting power of attorney, probate or even the purpose of services such as the coroner. It is important that there is nothing too difficult for us to talk about and to be able to do so without any personal discomfort on our part.
Marie Curie have just published a very helpful report titled ‘Public Attitudes to Death and Dying in the UK’ which reveals that of a sample of over 8000 adults, 84% stated they would be comfortable talking about dying and death with family and friends. But only 40% have told someone whether they would prefer to be buried, cremated, or have their body donated to medical science, 20% made financial provision in advance for their funeral and just 14% have formally discussed and planned how they would prefer to be cared for when they are dying.
Over 40% of people surveyed stated that among their top three priorities for their final years of life, they were having access to professionals to respond to concerns about their family or legal affairs. However, only 25% of people were with familiar with the term ‘powers of attorney’, which can be so important in allowing a trusted person to act as one’s advocate in how one is cared for, when no longer able to communicate for oneself.
As one would expect from Marie Curie, the report focuses on care of people who are nearing the end of life. However, the conclusion that there needs to be much better discussion of death and dying in general, especially when people are having to consider what levels of care and intervention they might prefer when death approaches and where that care should take place, is very relevant to those of us who provide services in the advice, legal and financial sectors. People cannot ask for services that they do not know exist, whether in the NHS or other relevant professional services. We all need to do better.