Tag Archives: Dying Matters

Caring for a dying relative

4 May

A coffin with a flower arrangement in a morgue

Caring for a dying relative


This is a very hard subject.  We don’t like to think about ourselves or our loved ones dying, but it is nevertheless an important subject.


If our loved one dies instantly, it is a huge shock, especially if we have not been expecting it.  If you have not had a conversation, then the next stage is commonly a state of shock before you can move into a more active mode of sorting out the arrangements.  This state of shock can last varying amounts of time, we are all different and how we deal with grief is different.


The death needs to be registered, the funeral arranged and then afterwards the estate can start to be sorted out.


If our loved one dies fairly quickly, this may give us an opportunity to say goodbye, to thank them for being in our lives and to let them know that they can go, if that is the right thing to say to them.  Saying thank you and goodbye is something we do for us, for them too of course, but letting them know that it is OK to go is something we do for them and a bit for us.  How we do that and whether we can do that will be different, sometimes we are not ready to let our loved ones go, especially if they are still young and we think that they have not finished their lives.  We can then have a little time to process the situation and try to emotionally deal with it.  And we cling to hope.


If our loved one dyes a lingering death, then we have that time to say thank you and goodbye and assure them that it is OK to go (assuming that it is).  We are upset and then process how we feel about it, however we cannot live on the adrenalin that this heightened state of anxiety will give us, so we get slightly used to it.  During this period of waiting, our loved one might rally, so we are given hope, perhaps only a glimmer or maybe a shining light, but we have hope.  And then they deteriorate and our hope dies.  If they have a fluctuating presentation, we can cycle through these emotions of despair and hope and we start living slightly on edge all the time, just waiting and not knowing.  This is very hard to watch as we see our loved one slowly slip away.


What happens if our loved one experiences a painful death?  Pain is something most of us fear.  We often wish we could trade places with a loved one in pain, but we can’t.  We can hold their hand, talk to them, feed them, play them music and lots of other things to try to comfort them and us, but we cannot take their pain.  Pain can be managed with drugs, but often it cannot be eliminated, watching a loved one in pain, whether or not they are dying is a horrible experience for both them and us.  I have been involved with many families when they are dealing with a loved one dying and a “peaceful” death is preferable, even though the death is often dreaded.


There is a finality with death, our relationship is forever changed, we can still love them, just not in person.  Death may be the time we stop and grieve, but if we are involved in sorting out their affairs, we may keep ourselves busy with that and not grieve and it is only when that is over that we do finally stop and grieve, which can come as a huge shock to anyone not expecting it, particularly since the death was some time before.  Greif takes time, but we can get over it and move on with our lives.


If during any of these stages we need help, friends and family may be around, but if we are faced with administration, legal or advocacy issues, I am here to help.  And I understand.

The Big Conversation – Dying Matters!

16 Feb

A coffin with a flower arrangement in a morgue



There are a number of different organisations that are involved in this subject of talking about dying.  We live in a death phobic society, we rarely see real dead bodies, just fake ones in movies.  When a neighbour dies, they are not laid out in the dining room for the neighbourhood to come and pay their respects or anything like that anymore!  We avoid using the word “death”, there are lots of other sayings: “fallen off their perch”, “gone to the other side”, “passed on” etc.


And yet, this is something that eventually we will all do, yet we don’t talk about it much.  Lots of families find this a very difficult and uncomfortable conversation, but often once that first barrier is broken, of starting the conversation, the whole thing becomes much easier.


It is entirely understandable that people want to focus on living and therefore want to talk about living, about the exciting things they want to do with their life, the place they want to go on holiday this year or just what’s for dinner!  But it is still worth having a conversation, perhaps once a year or every other year about what you want to happen as you are dying and after you have died.


What sort of end of life treatment do you want?  Who will make those end of life decisions if you can’t?  What do you want to happen if you have a 50% chance of survival?  But what about a 70% survival chance or a 10% chance.  And what does “survival” really mean?  What is it about your life and lifestyle that is important to you?


And once you have died, what sort of funeral do you want?  Who do you want to be there?  Do any of these decisions matter or do you want your family to make some or all these decisions?  Is your family going to hold a wake, should there be a theme?  How do you want to be remembered?


In legal terms, this also leads into the making of a Will, which I have blogged about before.


Your family will be sad that you have died (hopefully) and one of the important ways that they are comforted in their grieving process is to be able to fulfil your wishes.  They can only do that if they know what your wishes are.  And they will only know what your wishes are if you have had a #BigConversation with them!

How to prepare for the future – part 2

7 Jul

Senior businessman showing a document

How to prepare for the future – part 2


Following on from the Big Conversation I spoke at in May 2016, it is important to take action on the things that were discussed.  This does not mean that your life becomes obsessed by your dying, as there is a risk that you will forget to live.  If you have one conversation a year with your family about it and all of the others tens / hundreds / thousands of conversations you have are about living, truly living, then this is likely to be enough for your family to know your wishes, as long as the one conversation has enough detail on your wishes.


So part 2 is all about creating Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA), which will allow someone else to make decisions for you, if you need to have them made, when you are no longer able to do that for yourself.  There are two kinds, one dealing with finance and the other covering health and welfare, so I will take those in turn.


The Property and Financial Affairs LPA covers all financial assets that you own, not just the big stuff, but all the little stuff as well, such as your jewellery, photos, furniture and clothes.  It of course covers your money and house.  If you retain mental capacity, but become too physically frail to sort out your finances, then you can allow your attorneys to act for you.  During this time, their actions should be limited to your directions and they should not make their own decisions for you, they can do that when you lose capacity.  So it is worthwhile that if you have a particular view about your finances, that you tell your family.  Also the things that people row about is often the little things, such as a particular picture, piece of jewellery, chair or table!  So if you know where those things are to go, then make your wishes clear, it will save a lot of worry, hassle and conflict!


Also if you want to stay in your own home for example, if you become unwell, then let your attorneys know, have the conversation around the risks of you becoming unwell and not receiving 24 hour care, but 4 visits a day!  If you don’t mind going into care, then tell your attorneys the kind of home you want to go in to.


The Health and Welfare LPA can only be used once you have lost capacity to make your own decisions.  The generically important decisions tend to be end of life decisions and where you live, which means whether or not you go into care and if so, which care home you go into.  But it includes all medical decisions and all social care decisions, which includes what you wear, what you eat, what social activities you can participate in and as such have a huge impact on your life.  So if you have a view about any of these, then tell your attorneys.


Both kinds of LPAs need to be registered at the Office of the Public Guardian at a cost of £110 per LPA (subject to means tested exceptions) and registration can take 8-10 weeks depending on how busy the OPG are.