By Helen Calder
It’s quite common that someone who knows they are approaching the end of their life has things they’d like to talk about. However, there is sometimes a “conspiracy of silence” and it’s difficult to raise the subject.
This checklist could act as an ice breaker or be used by someone outside the family who is visiting in a caring role.
My “ground rules” include:
- The “agenda” is yours and it’s for you to decide whether you’d like to include anyone else in the conversation in addition to you and me.
- You can say pass, I don’t or I can’t talk about this on any topic.
- You can press the pause button if you get emotional (understandably common) or tired.
- What you say to me is confidential, unless you specifically ask me to communicate to someone else.
There are potentially lots of topics we could cover. I don’t want to exhaust you! Some of them you have probably already covered and some you may not want to cover.
You may find it helpful to share the list with your spouse, partner or other immediate members of your family and use that as a catalyst to cover things you haven’t been able to so far.
- Are there things you’d like to talk about?
- Are there questions that you have?
- Is there anything that worries you about the future?
- What have you already discussed with your family?
- What would you still like to talk to them about? We can talk about ways to bring up difficult topics.
- Are you scared of dying and if so do you know why? We may be able to consider ways to ease that.
- What do you understand to be your prognosis? Is that understood by all your immediate family?
- Do you have a faith/belief/world view?
- Do you have questions around belief and faith, especially in relation to death and/or life after death?
- What practical things do you already have in place e.g. living will, power of attorney, funeral plans, will & executors, letters to family members. Is there anything that you still need to do? We can talk about how if that would help.
- Have you explained to anyone why you have written your will as it is? This could avoid misunderstandings later.
- Are there particular pieces of music or books you’d like to have playing in the last stages of life? Who would you like to be with you in those last hours? Has this already been communicated to those closest to you?
- Have you been present when someone else has been dying? Do you want to talk about some of the physical things that may happen to you?
- What are your main concerns about “after you’ve gone”? We may be able to consider ways to alleviate some of these.
- Is there anything else I or anyone else can do to support you and the people close to you over the coming days and weeks?
Helen Calder After a management career in the glass and brewing industries, Helen felt called to work in the Christian sector. She spent a year studying theology at St John’s College Nottingham where she particularly focussed on pastoral care of the dying and bereaved. In 1991 she was appointed as director of administration for All Souls Church, Langham Place. From 1999 to 2016 Helen worked at the Evangelical Alliance, since 2007 as executive director: finance and services. She has been a trustee of several Christian charities. She now has a portfolio career which includes mentoring and consultancy in the charity sector.