What is a good death?
A good death means something different to everyone. Some people may relish in the sound of grandchildren running around their home, filling it with life and laughter, whereas some may prefer the peace, quiet and support of a hospice. For others, it could mean refusing treatment or putting a DNACPR in place.
A good death is personal to the individual.
How can you achieve a good death?
There’s a lot of options available to suit
your personal needs. These are some of the common things that contribute to the
idea of a ‘good death’:
Having an Advanced Care Plan in place and
specifying your final medical care decisions, as well as considering ways to
control pain and discomfort, can ensure your end of life care happens on your
own terms. It also allows for dignity to remain intact, whatever that looks
like to you. Think about your personal care preferences and document these via
Also thinking about who you want to be cared for by, for example a doctor, nurses, home carers or your family and friends. You have the choice of where you want to be in your final days, this may be at home, in a care home, in a hospice or hospital.
There are things you can have in place, such as an up to date will, that reduces the amount of stress at the end of your life and ensures your estate is distributed in the way you want it to be. However, only 38% of people in the UK have written a will.
Appointing a Power of Attorney for health and finance also ensures that your wishes and decisions are carried out by someone you trust. Find out more about Power of Attorney here.
Thinking about your funeral can take some of the pressures of your family or relatives. There’s a lot of choice for what your funeral can look like nowadays – just have a look online and you’ll be astounded at some of the wonderfully wacky conceptions available! Do you want a traditional funeral, memorial, or cremation? Or perhaps you will choose to not have one at all. You can tell a loved one your funeral wishes or write them down. It is also possible to organise your own funeral; this ensures the financial pressures aren’t passed onto your family.
Favourite activities and objects
Thinking about what activities, experiences or objects would be most pleasing and comforting in your final days is important. This might be listening to a favourite artist or album, reading a favourite book, enjoying good food and drink. It might also mean being surrounded by particular photographs or a vase of flowers. As well as, thinking about who you would like to see in your final days.
Along with the practical matters of having one’s affairs in order, it’s equally important to prepare for death emotionally. Spending time with your loved ones toward the end of life can help with this. Ira Byock’s The Four Things That Matter Most are often quoted in the context of achieving a good death. Byock states a dying person has a need to express four thoughts the end of life:
1. I love you
2. Thank you
3. I forgive you
4. Forgive me
Religion or spirituality can also help people find strength and meaning during their final moments. It is important to think about your preferred spiritual or religious beliefs and underpinnings, and how you want these incorporated into your last days. Again, if you feel able, it is best to document and communicate your wishes.
Saying goodbye to your family, friends and pets can be difficult for both you and your loved ones. The finality of it can be overwhelming. However, many say that once this is done a sense of peace prevails.
Your death is just that – yours. You can plan and prepare for it, in any way you wish to. You have the best chance of achieving a good death when you plan, prepare and are supported to make decisions. This might mean hard conversations or ensuring you have an up to date will in place. In the way that we plan for everything else in life, you can’t just hope for the best. Friends at the End are here to support you with any or all of these choices, be it a listening ear or more practical help, get in touch when you feel ready.