Virtual Death Café success for Dying Matters Awareness Week

A successful virtual death café was held on Wednesday 15 May at Southend’s Civic Centre on Facebook as a live stream as part of the annual Dying Matters Awareness Week (13-19 May) about advance care planning for death and has attracted over 500 views to date.

The event was hosted on the NHS Southend CCG Facebook page between 10.30 and 11.30am and attracted a number of varied questions.

A virtual Death Cafe is a group-directed discussion about death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session giving people the chance to discuss death.

The purpose of virtual Death Cafes is that there is no agenda so things discussed are whatever the members want them to be. Members are welcome to talk about whatever they want in relation to death and dying so long as everyone remains respectful of the views of others.

The subject matter included such things as power of attorney and how to start difficult conversations about things such as end of life wishes, making a will and even delicate matters like do not resuscitate and what support is available for patients and carers to overcome those difficult to start conversations.

Questions were answered by representatives including Havens Hospices, a Macmillan Doctor, Essex Partnership University Trust’s End of Life Team, Southend Carers Forum and Carers First.

This year’s theme is ‘Are We Ready?’ and the campaign aims to break down the fear and taboo associated with death, dying and bereavement and get people talking more openly. The campaign will also be supported on social media using #DyingMatters and #AreWeReady?

In Essex, there has been lots of work going on to support people at the end of life or those with life limiting conditions to be able to talk about dying and make plans for their care.

Talking about dying may not always be easy, but it can help people to make the most of life and to support those they care about. Individuals have a right to say how they want to be cared for in their last days. Don’t be afraid of saying the wrong thing and don’t be afraid of discussing it with friends, family, a GP or other healthcare professional.

Live with peace of mind by taking the initiative and making any wishes known. This can make a real difference to the lives of close loved ones by planning ahead and sparing them from having to make difficult decisions after death.

It is important people discuss their wishes and are not afraid of doing so. Talking about dying doesn’t bring it any closer but having that big conversation can help to make the most of life until the very end.

Tricia D’Orsi, NHS Southend and NHS Castle Point and Rochford CCG Chief Nurse said:

“As a society, we need to talk more about dying and death and, as individuals, we all need to have a conversation about our end of life choices and wishes with our family, friends and loved ones. I hope that through this awareness week, people find a way to talk about dying without it being taboo”.

Natalie Kitchen, Hospice at Home Sister at Havens Hospices said:

“We were really pleased to be invited by NHS Southend CCG to join them and other palliative healthcare professionals and experts for their Virtual Death Café. Dying Matters Week is a really important initiative because death and dying can be a hard subject to talk about no matter what age you are. Across Havens Hospices we work with patients, families and their loved ones to try and help them to die well – part of that is helping them to have those conversations. It was fantastic to work collaboratively with our colleagues from across the region and attend the Virtual Death Café to encourage more people across the region to start having those conversations and breakdown barriers or fears about death.”

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