Most of us avoid the subject of death - it isn't generally considered to be polite conversation and it certainly can dampen the mood. Plus, most of us think that we still have plenty of time, and prefer to cross that bridge when we come to it. But, a bit of planning and communication with your loved ones now could mean avoiding a lot of heartache for them later.
What makes a 'good' death?
Is the idea of a 'good' death a contradiction in terms? To answer that, try thinking about your idea of a bad death. Would it include pain, confusion, discomfort, loneliness, and inability to communicate your wishes? Well, you could help to avoid all of those things by planning a little now, whether you are ill or not, and whatever your age.
It can often help to begin by talking to those close to you about death because it can help you realise what's important to you, and to them. Some things to consider are:
- who you would like to be with you if you were close to death,
- where you would like to be - such as a hospice, at home, or in a hospital,
- whether you want to know, or want your family to know, when you are close to death,
- who would be the person to tell others that you are soon to die,
- who would be responsible for making decisions about your care on your behalf, that could not be made by you in advance, and
- how you would want your final days to sound and look - such as your favourite music, TV programmes, or flowers.
Write down your wishes and make sure someone knows where they are, just in case they're needed. Remember, you can update it as often as you like, and your loved ones will undoubtedly be happy to know exactly what you will make you feel as comfortable as possible when the inevitable happens. You can also write down what you would like at your funeral, so that your family can carry out your wishes.
Let's get practical
You may not feel like being practical about your own death - let's face it, you won't be worrying about how tidy your filing system is when your time's up. But for your family, your messy files and unorganised finances could be a living nightmare. Plus, if you haven't written a will, things can get even more confusing.
When a loved one dies, it can be very hard coping with practical issues on top of the sadness, grief and sometimes, shock. So, take some time to get your affairs in order - it might not be as time consuming as you think - and you'll probably feel comfortable knowing everything's organised.
Things to get sorted include:
- Your will - a 'DIY' package for straightforward wills is the cheapest method, but you do miss out on face-to-face advice. Asking a lawyer to do it for you costs a bit more, but it can be worth it, especially if you have more complicated requirements. Visit The Law Society website for guidance on writing a will (see 'further information'), and lawyers in your area.
- Your financial details - after your death your next of kin will need to know about your bank accounts, savings accounts, mortgage, credit cards, pension, and any other financial contracts. Having a list handy, which you update as things change, makes it a lot easier.
- Important documents - they'll also need to know where you keep important documents like the deeds to your house, your passport, insurance policies, and birth and marriage certificates.
See the BBC's 'planning a good death' website for useful checklists to help you get your affairs organised (see Further information).