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Talking about death and dying - new guidance from Age UK and Malnutrition Taskforce

26 September 2017

Age UK and Malnutrition Task Force (MTF) have published new guidance to help people have conversations about death and dying after the results of a recent survey found these subjects were often avoided.

Funded by the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Health and Wellbeing Alliance, the study conducted by the two organisations found that over a third of people are not comfortable bringing up the subject with a relative or close friend, and two in five people admit they do not know their loved ones’ wishes around dying, such as what their preferred type of burial would be.

In response Age UK and MTF have published a booklet and accompanying animation designed to help people start positive conversations about death with the people they care about.

These resources have been developed to help people approach the subject and support one of the six ambitions in Ambitions for palliative and end of life care, published by NHS England and National Palliative and End of Life Care Partnership.

The study confirmed what Age UK found in other recent research - that most people felt they could talk generally about death and dying within their own peer group but not their own family, younger people did not feel comfortable speaking to older friends and relatives, and all age groups felt that they had no idea of what may physically happen when people approach the end of life.

Lesley Carter, Programme Head of Malnutrition Taskforce and Head of Health Influencing at Age UK said:

“We know that having the confidence to start a conversation about dying and death is very hard, we struggle to find the right time, the right words and we are terrified of upsetting the other person and ourselves.”

“We have written this bright well-illustrated book and film that can be used to explore this issue with children, adults and professionals. We have explained why it is important to talk about dying and death, given ideas of how you could start a conversation, what you may want to say. Obviously, we are all different, you will find your own words. We hope that these resources will give you the confidence to give it a go.”

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