Robert Larkins, in his book Funeral Rights explains how “…in a little over 80 years, it has become the norm in Australia for a person to die in an institution and for strangers to collect the body and spirit it away to some mysterious and inaccessible mortuary.” He ascribes this transition to a combination of complex legislation, inadequate community awareness and in some cases, exploitation by those in the ‘death-care’ industry.
In the ‘health-care sector’, we pride ourselves on the fact that treatments, therapies and the organisation of services are evidence-based. Yet we also know that in order for the community to interact optimally and extract their desired services and treatments, even an evidence-based and constantly ‘learning’ healthcare system needs to invest time and effort into providing information about services, promoting community awareness and advocating for consumer rights. When this does not occur, even a service built on a strong evidence-base will mostly miss the mark, as it will fail to generate adequate engagement with the community it aims to serve.
What then for ‘death-care’? How is the community to access information about funeral practices and gain the knowledge and awareness of the laws, and our rights, to enable us to celebrate the lives of our loved ones in ways that are most meaningful to us? If we are not in the habit of talking about death, or seeking information about ‘death-care’, how can we be equipped to seek support and make choices about funerals? How are we to plan our own funeral or help in the celebration of the lives of other people who are important to us?
Fortunately, recent years have seen something of a renaissance of discussion about funerals and death-care. #deathoverdinner encourages us to share food and talk about our end of life care, but also our thoughts about funerals. The Dying to Know Day campaign has gained traction around Australia and celebrates an awareness-raising day in August each year. Death cafes are a grassroots phenomenon, powered by people who are passionate about generating discussion and sharing information and experiences in their local communities.
This month’s #pallanz tweetchat explores some of these important aspects of death-care, with an hour dedicated to discussion about everything funeral-related. The tweetchat will be hosted jointly by @palliverse and Palliative Care Australia @PCACEO, and moderated by @csinclair28. Please bring your experiences, your knowledge and your questions. Like all #pallanz tweetchats, the discussion will be relevant and accessible for anyone in the community, so please join us!
Introductions (10 minutes)
Topic 1 (10 minutes): When someone says the word ‘funeral’ what comes to mind?
Topic 2 (10 minutes): How can we increase community awareness about the options when it comes to funerals?
Topic 3 (10 minutes): What roles do, could, or should palliative care providers have regarding funerals?
Topic 4 (10 minutes): How can palliative care providers facilitate more positive funeral experiences for those in our communities?
Closing thoughts, shout outs, thankyous (10 minutes)
Hope to see you there on Thursday August 25th, 7:00pm AEST (Sydney time).