Death and dying is not an easy subject to broach, but for Rennie Grove Hospice Care it is a responsibility the charity takes very seriously. As such, the organisation welcomes the annual ‘Dying Matters’ Awareness Week from 9 to 15 May as an opportunity to encourage people to have the ‘big conversation’ and share ideas around this ‘last great taboo’.
Founded by the National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC), who formed the Dying Matters Coalition comprising member organisations like Rennie Grove in 2009, the week aims to raise public awareness of a subject that will affect us all, but which is often deemed unmentionable.
Rennie Grove’s Education Lead, Jo Oates, explained: “Much of the Rennie Grove nurses’ work in patients’ homes is around supporting patients and their families to discuss what they want to happen during their illness and after their death. Not only does this promote patient choice, it also helps bereaved families because they know they are carrying out a loved one’s wishes.”
This year, Rennie Grove is taking the opportunity to encourage everyone to think about death, dying and bereavement. “This shouldn’t be seen as a morbid or depressing topic,” assured Jo, “but as something we can prepare ourselves for in much the same way as we would for any other major event in life.”
Rennie Grove’s hypothesis is that by thinking about death as a natural part of life, it becomes normalised and some of the stigma and fear associated with it is eliminated. “Discussions might centre on things you want to achieve in life, whether it’s the trip of a lifetime, learning a new skill or a major career change,” said Jo, “or it might be more about the songs you’d like played at your funeral, how and where you’d like to be cared for should you become ill, or making a Will to protect your loved ones.”
With these ideas in mind, Rennie Grove has organised a number of thought-provoking activities during Dying Matters Week, all aimed at stimulating discussion in a safe and supportive environment.
On Tuesday May 10 the charity’s education team, including former nurses, will have a stand in the Eden Centre in High Wycombe where they’ll be encouraging shoppers to start the ‘big conversation’ with ideas for a bucket list, which they can scribble on a blackboard. On Wednesday May 11, the charity is giving staff members and volunteers the chance to take a little time out to consider the subject of death and dying with an evening showing of the film ‘PS I Love You’.
Rennie Grove has also teamed up with Finity, a voluntary community association supporting people to discuss end-of-life issues, and acclaimed playwright Brian Daniels. His play ‘Don’t Leave Me Now’ explores the impact of early-onset dementia on family life and is inspired by two true-life stories. Tickets are available free-of-charge for two performances and post-show discussions (led by Finity Chair and GP Jo Withers alongside Barbara Stephens, Chief Executive of Dementia Pathfinders) on Thursday May 12: a 2pm matinee at Baptist Church Hall, Little Kingshill and a 6pm evening performance at The Court Theatre in Tring. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01442 890222 to secure your free places.
Jo added: “Brian’s brilliant play brings home the message that none of us knows what the future has in store and that the more we discuss what we want the more chance we have of achieving it – both in life and death.”