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The importance of talking about dying

Nurse talking with patient on balcony

This Dying Matters Awareness Week, Hospice in the Weald is encouraging everyone in our community to get talking about death, dying, and grief in whatever way or form works for them.  

This year’s theme is ‘The way we talk about Dying Matters’, an important topic and one that rightly deserves attention. We want to focus on the language we use, and conversations we have, around death and dying.  

We spoke with Paul Madden, Care Director at the Hospice, who shared his thoughts on this year’s theme. 

Hospice Care Week 2023

Why conversation is key

“We know that all too often, barriers, including lack of confidence, taboos and fears around discussing death, can prevent people from getting all the information and support they need,” Paul said. “This can of course be problematic, so we are keen to change this as best we can. The more people feel comfortable with talking about death and dying, the better. 

“Timely discussions about death and dying are so important, too. They can transform the end of someone’s life and give clarity and comfort to family and friends.”

Language makes a difference 

“At Hospice in the Weald, we aim to use clear language, delivered with kindness and compassion,” Paul continued. “It’s important that we ask people what they want to know, how, and when, but we won’t always get it right, so we will always be grateful for questions. 

“A recent Hospice UK survey revealed some interesting statistics. They asked 1,000 recently bereaved people questions on this topic, and found that 45% of people preferred direct language, 33% preferred more euphemistic language, and 21% said that they were unsure or had no preference. This, for us, is further proof that language choice is crucial, and people have their own preferences.

“Whether it’s with healthcare professionals, family, friends, or colleagues, we’re encouraging everyone to have these important conversations and to think about the words we use to have them.” 

Patient and partner talking about wishes

We respect everyone’s wishes

“If you’d prefer healthcare professionals, friends or family to avoid words like death or dying, feel free to tell them,” said Paul. “For example, ‘I really dislike using the word die, please can you talk about passing instead?’ Nobody wants to cause distress. As long as everyone is confident what other words mean to you, then it is fine to use them. 

“We hope that by speaking honestly about death, many more people will get the information and support they need, when they need it.” 

Nurse writing on paper

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