Many older people think death is ‘too far off’

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PEOPLE are increasingly leaving it “too late” to face their own mortality, experts said, after figures suggest that many older people think death is “too far off”.

Almost one in four (23 per cent) of people over the age of 75 have not discussed their wishes around dying or planned for their end-of-life care because death is seen as too far away, the British Social Attitudes Survey found.

Just over a third (35 per cent) of people of all ages have a will, down from almost two-fifths (39 per cent) in 2009, the survey of more than 2,000 British adults found.

The poll, released to coincide with Dying Matters Awareness Week, also found that only 11 per cent of people have written down their wishes for funeral plans.

The Dying Matters Coalition, a group made up of charities, health and social care workers and other organisations, said that while many people felt more confident to talk to loved ones about death, people should not “shun” difficult conversations about dying.

“It’s encouraging that older people are becoming more comfortable discussing dying and their end-of-life wishes, but as a nation too many of us are still shunning the conversations that can help avoid heartbreak and regret at the end of life,” said Eve Richardson, chief executive of the Dying Matters Coalition and the National Council for Palliative Care.

“You don’t have to be ill or dying to make plans for your future, which is why we are calling on people across the country to take practical steps by writing a will, recording their funeral wishes, planning their future care and support, considering registering as an organ donor and telling loved ones their wishes.”

Professor Mayur Lakhani, chair of the coalition and a practising GP, added: “There are powerful benefits of having early conversations with people who are approaching the end 
of their life, as it puts them in control and gives a chance 
to resolve any life issues. It 
also means that plans can be made for people to get the care and support that is right for them.

“Whilst more of us than ever are living to a ripe old age, people are also living for longer with dementia and other life-limiting conditions, which makes it especially important to talk more openly about the care and support we would want.

“It’s only by having the conversations that matter and planning ahead that care of the dying will be improved and people will get their end-of-life wishes met.”