Go your own way

Dying to Know Day, the annual campaign of Sydney’s Community Care – Northern Beaches, held on 8 August, seeks to empower Australians to take control of their end-of-life planning.

Retail Pharmacy Assistants spoke to the organisation to discuss the campaign and the conversations about dying, grief and death it initiates with the aim of helping people to have their wishes honoured and acknowledged at end-of-life time.

Please tell us about Community Care – Northern Beaches, its vision and mission. 

The Groundswell Project Australia is an initiative of Community Care – Northern Beaches (CCNB), which is a not-for-profit community-based organisation. It provides impartial information, advice and guidance to support people to access health and community services, with a focus on aged care and NDIS clients. At CCNB, our vision is for everyone to feel a sense of belonging and connection, and live the life they want. 

Tell us about the Dying to Know Day campaign and its purpose.

In its 11th year, Dying to Know Day is an annual campaign that empowers all Australians to be strong self-advocates for their own personal planning when it comes to their future. The campaign encourages adults of all stages to take individual action, hold events, and gatherings at home, and much more, all to improve their knowledge around choices for their end of life. The campaign culminates on 8 August, when individuals, community, healthcare workers and professionals participate in a range of events that initiate conversations and/or action towards developing their death literacy all through August.

What is the theme of this year’s campaign and why was it chosen? 

This year, the campaign asks individuals from all communities, cultures and gender backgrounds to prioritise self-advocacy when it comes to end-of-life planning and to embrace their unique and personal choices so they truly align with their values and wishes.

We’re encouraging people to have the tough conversations now to help reduce the anguish, distress and grief experienced by family and friends later. We’re asking people to #GetDeadSetMyWay.

Why is it important that we raise awareness about having conversations about death, grieving and end-of-life planning? 

It’s important to have these conversations now to help ease the burden and grief on loved ones when you die. It’s a topic that’s avoided by society, but thorough planning ensures that your wishes are followed through and that your send-off is one that you would have wanted for yourself.

What are prevailing attitudes around death and dying, and what factors hinder open conversations about these topics? 

Last year, the research done for our ‘Get Dead Set’ report indicated that 87 per cent of [surveyed] Australians believe it’s important to do some end-of-life planning. However, only 35 per cent have taken part. We discovered through the research that a quarter of [surveyed] people felt uncomfortable having conversations about end-of-life planning.

Many believe there are barriers or challenges that prevent them from doing end-of-life planning, including it being too emotional a topic to think about or bring up (14 per cent of respondents), or not being sure how to start talking about it due to a lack of understanding about the choices out there for them (15 per cent). Many people just don’t realise that they’re likely to need to make decisions about their own healthcare, or for those they love, at a time when they’re distressed. The more people understand the choices out there for them, the more comfortable they can become to start having those conversations.

How can we prioritise self-advocacy in end-of-life planning?

Your future is your choice, and that includes your end-of-life plans. We can start to prioritise self-advocacy in planning for our futures by ensuring people have the information they need to make the choices and decisions that are best for them – and by encouraging people to truly think of their wishes, and make sure they capture those and share those with the people important to them.

How can death literacy be improved within Australia? 

It can be improved by starting to have more conversations about death and dying, and ensuring resources and information on choices are easily accessible to everyone, no matter their age, gender or cultural background. We develop our death literacy primarily through our experiences, so being a part of a caring group for a friend or engaging in conversations with our parents can all help.

Please outline some key steps that are essential in end-of-life planning. 

There are three main ways that you can proactively start to think about your future and plan:

  • Capturing your choices in writing. This could be seeking a lawyer to create a will, identifying an enduring guardian, or drafting financial and legal documents to secure your specific needs. [Or it could involve] preparing your superannuation [arrangements] by completing a death benefit nomination form and advanced care planning.
  • Engaging in conversations with the people in your life you care about, and who care about you. Talk with your executor, enduring guardian and substitute decision-maker. These can be your friends or family members. You can also start to have conversations about death and end-of-life planning by organising an event on Dying to Know Day to start conversations.
  • Preparing your send-off. How do you want to be remembered? Think about the kind of funeral or wake you’d like or if you’d prefer to have a burial or be cremated. Everyone has different traditions that might impact how they want their send-off to go.

In what ways can pharmacy assistants facilitate healthy conversations about death and dying? 

Through being their own self-advocates and promoting the benefits of planning; asking others if they’ve completed their documents and selected an executor, enduring guardian and substitute decision-maker.

How can retail pharmacy assistants contribute to supporting and promoting the campaign? 

Each year, Dying to Know Day has a growing number of health services that create their own events or promotions to initiate conversations around the end of life.

Organising an event for pharmacy customers to attend could be a great way to help spread the word about the campaign, along with sharing links to our website (dyingtoknowday.com), which provides guides, toolkits and resources that can help them plan an event, find events to attend, or share with customers to help support people to act to ‘get dead set’.

Pharmacy assistants can get involved by joining the conversation and sharing their own experiences or events on social media by using the hashtags #DyingToKnowDay, #GetDeadSetMyWay or #GetDeadSet.

Learn more: dyingtoknowday.com/

This feature was originally published in the July issue of Retail Pharmacy Assistants e-magazine.