Colin Begg took part in the 10 Things workshop in Redfern. Here's his take on the event and how it affirmed his thoughts on preparing for death and dying.
Before the workshop, how did you feel about talking for four hours about death?
In a word “relaxed”. My wife and I had many discussions about death prior to her entering the last phase of her life. Sometimes this would involve a few tears; more often than not, the conversations would dissolve into black humour and belly laughter but with a tinge of sadness, and perhaps a little anger, that our time together was drawing to a close. Talking about our family’s journey at the workshop was not a burden and I hope it may have been of some comfort to other participants, as I drew comfort from their stories.
What did you hope to get out of it?
My hopes for outcomes from the workshop were realised with, firstly, the questionnaire about prioritising the 21 End of Life Values - now that made me think through all the issues of my wife’s terminal illness, palliation and death in detail and make my list accordingly, and importantly, as a paper record (not just thoughts running through my mind) but I had previously discussed those values with both my sons and their families. I had simply never thought to record them as “hard copy” to be part of my Emotional Will.
I had also hoped for an example of an Advance Care Plan, a blank form of which was provided in the take-home material from the workshop, for which I am most grateful. When my wife’s health was in significant decline, I knew her exact wishes and I could relay those to the ED and Palliative Care staff as I was her 24/7 carer but now that I am a grumpy old widower, there may not be someone here immediately to speak on my behalf, so I’m hoping that I have sufficient capacity to take the hard copy with me to the ED - if that is the way I go. (Or that EMR2 is introduced soon and my wishes can be filed, ready to action when needed).
What emotions arose while talking about death?
My major reaction was one of great relief. Relief that my wife and I and the boys had spoken quite openly about what decisions would be made in the event of a major health episode occurring that was physically and mentally impossible to overcome. I have seen substantial evidence of the huge emotional upheavals between family members when the patient’s wishes are not known to everyone, are ignored or not honoured.
What (or which part of the workshop) struck a chord with you most?
That all participants had a realistic approach to death; death is not a taboo subject!
What actionable change did you instigate after the workshop?
Gathered together copies of my Enduring Power of Attorney, Will, Emotional Will, End of Life Priorities (and soon to be completed Advance Care Plan), Title Deeds to the house etc, so they are all in one location (known by my sons) and should my health deteriorate seriously or significantly, I will carry these documents with me or have them filed through EMR2, should I last that long.
Thank you again for the links for additional information on Groundswell’s work. I keep pointing out to anyone who will listen (and a few who don’t want to listen) that the final journey is made so much less stressful if you talk about it to friends and family and whether they understand or not. Plan it, organise it and do it your way!
For more information click here: '10 things to know before you go'