Little Life Conversations
Introducing a new campaign from Healthwatch Cornwall to get communities talking openly about death and dying.
Healthwatch Cornwall is launching a campaign this week to encourage people to take the time to talk with their loved ones about their wishes and preferences for the end of their lives.
In our End of Life research in March 2018 we found 41% of people we spoke to in Cornwall hadn’t talked to their family and friends about their preferences for care, whilst just 4% had an end-of-life care plan.
Ahead of the Dying Matters Awareness Week, 13th-19th May, Healthwatch Cornwall is asking people to have #LittleLifeConversations, encouraging the community to engage in discussions and make death conversations a part of everyday life.
Amanda Stratford, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Cornwall, said: “Talking with friends and family about death is something we all find difficult, but it is so important whether or not you are expecting death soon. Having an understanding with your loved ones about how you want your final days to be managed will help avoid confusion and heartache when the time comes.
“We’ve found the best way is to have little conversations while doing something ordinary like the dishes, going out for a walk, or over a cup of tea. They needn’t cover all the big decisions at once. It can be as simple as communicating what is important to you.
“Obviously, there are the big issues as well. Is it about quality of life and comfort, or length of life at all costs? What would we want our care to look like if we couldn’t make decisions for ourselves? Ultimately, our aim is to get people of all ages to tentatively start these conversations and there are a number of resources available to help document them.”
The campaign has some high profile supporters and contributors. Kris Hallenga founded the breast cancer awareness charity CoppaFeel! after she was diagnosed herself at just 23. Despite her terminal prognosis she tirelessly raises awareness of the disease amongst young women.
Kris, who now lives in Cornwall, described what it’s like for her to talk about end of life wishes with loved ones: “Usually we have quite an amusing chat. It always leads to some kind of humour, I think that’s the best way British people, in particular, deal with these things.”
Dr Kathryn Mannix a Consultant, founder member of the Association for Palliative Medicine and author with 30 years’ experience in palliative care told us: “By thinking ahead with our loved ones, we can frame a statement of our wishes to guide them when we no longer can. In fact, the conversation with them is probably more important than the statement of preferences itself”.
Amanda continued: “Death really is part of life. Whether you are ill or not, it’s something we are all going to experience one day and we need to be able to talk about it with our family and friends. It can be reassuring to know that our families know our wishes and can be guided by them at the most difficult of times.”
Healthwatch Cornwall is an independent organisation that works with communities to ensure better health and social care services in Cornwall.
Follow the #LittleLifeConversations campaign @HWcornwall
For more information on how to start your conversations, visit https://www.healthwatchcornwall.co.uk/little-life-conversations/
The Dying Matters awareness week runs from 13th – 19th May 2019.