The question accompanying Dying Matter’s Week (10th-17th May), a national initiative that seeks to raise awareness and address fears around death and dying, is, “Are you in a good place to die?”
The support given by so many supporters of the hospice movement, both personal, community and business, says that hospices are ‘a good place to die.’ The physical support through fundraising, donation and legacies to hospice care makes up the greater proportion of its finances. At Havens Hospices we opened our brand new, state of the art, hospice building at Priory Crescent just over a year ago. This could not have been achieved without the will and the generosity of all areas of our communities in Southend, Castle Point and Rochford. People want a ‘good place to die’ for those in need and to know that we exist for their own need, should it come to that, and they wish for it.
Being in a ‘good place to die’ is about more than a physical building with the clinical care necessary for as pain free and peaceful death as possible though. It plays a major part but there is more to being in ‘a good place’ when we face the prospect of our own mortality up close and personally.
Death is not a destination and life is something that we all live through in all its ups, downs, round and abouts. Who we are is shaped by experience, conditions, learning, culture, and how we see the value or our own self. Too often we are encouraged, or encourage ourselves, to see ourselves measured up to others, maybe in their shadow, inadequate or unfulfilled in this game of life.
Living with a chronic illness, or one that means we approach the end of life, needing the support and attention of palliative care practitioners can be a really difficult place to be in. Our thoughts and feelings about death and dying can be harsh and unkind toward ourselves in ways we would never treat another person.
It is times like these when many of us would benefit from looking toward their personal wellbeing despite the progression of illness and approaching end of life. This is why the hospice movement works within a holistic model of care. Not clinical care alone but psychological, social and spiritual too. Treating the person and not the illness only. Considering the impact and considering the issues around their death and dying with the person and their family. We seek to be ‘a good place to die’ and good company to die in.
Whoever you are, and whatever your life, experiences and beliefs, hospice care aims to give the best of overall holistic care to as many people as possible, and to do so without fear or anxiety over the end of life because this care can create ‘a good place to die.’ Embracing what is here to support the journey is best taken up sooner, when the end of life is thought likely and the palliative path lies ahead, than later, as the end of life draws near. Asking what would be ‘a good place to die’ for any person may need to be something that takes time and attention in the making.
Being in a ‘good place to die,’ and it is possible for death and dying to be beautiful and a fulfilment of life, means that no person feels they are alone or unseen in their journey towards their life’s end. It should mean that, as our moto is at Havens Hospices, ’Making every day count’ and see every person that needs a ‘good place to die’ be in as good a place for them as possible, whether that is in our hospices or in their own home in the community.
What is done, in every area of our hospice care and in partnership with every supporter in the communities around us, is done with this goal in mind. Making sure that every person is held in mind, as we ourselves would wish to be held in mind, and seen as a precious part of the fabric of life that we ourselves are woven up to, and through, our death and dying.
Published 5th May 2021