Dying Matters Awareness Week
Jewish Care supports our partners in Barnet in hosting 'What Matters to me'.
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Why should we ask, ‘What matters to me?'
We all have different ideas about what is important to us. When our wishes are heard and respected, it means we can have the chance to live a fuller life until the very end of life. Having meaningful conversations around what matters to us is essential throughout life. It can also make the difference between a peaceful, meaningful ending and a confusing, frightening one. 'What matters' conversations can also help family and friends know they did everything they could and the uncertainty and guilt of not knowing if they got it right.
What kind of things should we be learning about each other from these conversations?
Unlike advance care planning (ACP) conversations, talking about what matters to you is more about overall wellbeing than medical matters; what will help you feel that life has value and purpose? These are normal everyday conversations. From such conversations we may learn unexpected things about each other like:
- What makes us happy, feel calm, content, and peaceful?
- Our hopes? This could include finding a partner, career, travelling or an unusual interest.
- What would matter most if we had limited time, for example being with family, engaging in a particular hobby, or living in a particular place?
- Who would we want to care for us; what kind of care we might want to receive from them?
- What people, pets and objects would we like to have around us?
- Favourite tastes, smells or sensations that might be important to us at our end?
- What happens when we do not ask what matters?
As the coronavirus pandemic has shown us so brutally, if we do not tell those close to us what matters when things are fine, the moment may be lost. People can end up being somewhere they do not want to be and without the people and things around that are important.
How to start a ‘What matters’ conversation
‘What matters’ conversations between friends and family are usually social chats taking place at home, out on a walk, in a restaurant or on the bus. They are conversations that can be picked up and put down again as our life changes.
'What matters' conversations can also focus on health and social care, and may occur between people and their GP, nurse, social worker or hospital specialist.
How do these conversations work alongside advance care planning conversations?
Advance care planning (ACP) has a health and social care focus, for example: sharing what treatments we would accept or refuse, where we would like to live if we become unable to live at home, or where we’d wish to be cared for at the very end of life.
Because most of us don’t volunteer for these conversations with our GP while we’re well, ACP conversations often take place hurriedly when it may be too late. Sadly, this can be the experience in some of our nursing homes.
We want to encourage ACP and ‘What matters?’ conversations to be intertwined. These conversations are a great help when it’s time to think about ACP. By identifying the things that matter most to us, it’s far easier to talk about future health care when it is linked to those priorities.