In our previous article ‘How the internet of things can help the end of life process’ we talked about how almost two thirds of us want to die at home. The reality is that, at the moment only about 21% of us will get that wish.
So how can we improve those odds, what can be put into place before we die to allow us to die at home, if that’s what we want?
Proper planning can help you to have a better death, and increase your chances of dying at home. Speak to health professionals to understand whether dying at home is viable in terms of the care you may need. List out what equipment may be needed, and what changes you may need to make at home. For example, will you need to move your bed to a more accessible room? If you have a pet, would you want them to be with you or looked after somewhere else? The more you can prepare in advance, the more likely it is you’ll be able to die at home,
Share your wishes
When it comes to death, a lot of decisions may have to be made on your behalf. So letting your family and carers know exactly what your wishes are in advance will help to reduce a lot of uncertainty and stress about making the right decision for you. It can be difficult to start these conversations, and those you love may resist them at first. But, it is incredibly important to create an open, honest space in which to share your wishes.
Set up a really strong communication network
By this, we mean thinking about how your GP, at-home nurses, hospital staff and family & friends you’ll have supporting you. How are they linked up? Can they communicate without you present? For example, will you need to let your GP know a list of friends and family who can ring up and order medicine/speak about your symptoms on your behalf?
Make sure your support has a support network
Taking care of someone who’s ill isn’t easy. Taking care of someone who’s dying is even harder. For those looking after you, the emotional and physical toll can be really high. Make sure that they have enough of a network around them too to be able to heal and recharge when needed. Dying really does take a village.
Preparing for changes to medication
Depending on how things transpire for you at the end, you may need to end up taking different medication, all of which will come with its own side effects. Try to know as much about the various symptoms these may cause in advance, so you and your support network are aware of what may happen to you once you take them. Whilst Google’s given us a great many things – it’s no doctor.
Understand and accept that things change
We’re slowly getting better at talking about what we want for the end of our lives, but the fact is that we’re never going to be able to make death and dying an easy, linear process for everyone. A lot can change quickly, and sometimes the best place to be is a hospice or hospital. Trust that those around you will be doing the best for you and your circumstances.
If you want to know more about dying at home, there are loads of great websites and resources out there for you. Here’s a list of some of them:
They’ve got loads of support tools for older people, and those helping to care for them, including lots of information about death and dying. https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice
They’re a coalition of individuals and organisations across England and Wales, all helping to open up conversations about death so we can all die better. https://www.dyingmatters.org/page/understanding-death-and-dying
The NHS website has a lot of information about what dying in hospital looks like compared to a hospice and at home. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/end-of-life-care/what-it-involves-and-when-it-starts/