Every month we run an online Buddy Support session where we discuss a specific topic, sometimes with specialist speakers, to further strengthen our knowledge and to share our learning and experience. We tend to record any speakers for those who can’t attend to watch later, but not the discussion so people can feel relaxed about participating fully in a safe space. These sessions are open to anyone who has completed our My Future Care Buddy training.*
In May our topic was how to encourage people to do some later life planning when they are reluctant to do so. Nancy has had a lot of experience of this as our most experienced Buddy and she shared some of her experiences and how she saw people, initially reluctant and unconvinced of the value or relevance to them, go on to fully embrace the project. I spoke about some of what I’d learned during the five years I have been researching this topic and we had a rich and constructive conversation amongst our attendees.
These are some of the points that came out of the discussion…
- Don’t think about the conversation you want to have as being about dying well, but living well. It immediately becomes a whole lot easier if the focus is on things that allow a person to live their best life possible.
- Start small. Think grab handles not funeral plan. If someone has made it clear they don’t want to talk about or make plans for their future, it is not unreasonable to ask if they have left a spare house key with someone in case something unexpected happens. Find something that is easily achieved, is relevant to them and might offer a stepping stone to other topics.
- Pick the right time and place, though this might require a bit of creative manoeuvring if the right time and place prove so elusive the conversation looks unlikely ever to happen!
- Be curious – read between the lines, try to understand what it is that is not being said. Use silence, really listen. Reluctance to plan may be a fear of the unknown, a lack of understanding of the options and decisions available.
- Use personal experience or stories of other people’s experiences to explain why this matters to you, why you feel so strongly about the importance of making plans. Ensure that any experience or story you share is relevant and will resonate with them.
- Talking about a stay in hospital rather than end of life might reveal a person’s preferences for their last days or hours without broaching the subject of death directly, if they find that challenging.
- Secure their trust, find ways to demonstrate you are raising this because they will benefit from what you have to say.
- Life story work may be a practical and gentle way to open the subject.
- Consider whether there is someone else they might prefer to talk to, to overcome any cultural or language barriers.
- Finally, there must always be a judgement call as to how hard you push someone to have the conversation if you have tried everything above and they are still reluctant. It is of course entirely optional as to whether a person makes plans for their later life and for some it may be so distressing that it is not in their best interests to continue pushing the subject. Having said that, we have not yet had anyone we have supported say they felt worse as a result of getting some plans in place, and most are pleasantly surprised by the sense of achievement and peace of mind gained.
*If you support people who might benefit from making plans for their later and end of life and you’d like to help them with that but feel you don’t have the skills or expertise to do so, we offer training, ongoing support and, within certain criteria, free Handbooks, providing you with a source of information and structure for the conversation. Email us for further information.