As featured in the Boomer lift-out of The Advertiser on Monday 12 November.
Australians are living longer than before – advances in modern medicine have increased our life expectancy significantly. According to the World Health Organisation, in Australia in 2018, life expectancy for a man is 81 years and 84.8 years for a woman.
But even though we are living longer, the subjects of death and dying are often not discussed.
Dying is an intensely personal journey and no two deaths are the same. There is often fear associated with death – fear of the unknown, of being in pain or of death itself. Our attitudes around death are shaped by so many things: our past experiences and beliefs – whether cultural, spiritual or religious – plus our health and situation.
The majority of Australians die in a hospital or an aged care facility. The main wish people express when talking about death is about having control over what happens.
When it comes to death and dying, families may be in the dark regarding their loved one’s wishes. But there are some simple ways to take more control over your own death. These include completing documents such as an Advanced Directive. This is a legal form which allows you to write down your wishes, preferences and instructions for future health care, end-of-life plans, living arrangements and personal matters.
It also allows the option of appointing a person to be what is known as a ‘substitute decision maker’, allowing them to make decisions on your behalf. It does not include financial decisions, which are managed through powers of attorney.
While so much about our passing remains unknown, one thing we can control is our wishes when that time approaches. Documenting this and making it known to trusted loved ones is an important process that can offer them – and you, most importantly – comfort and reassurance.