We’re reluctant to talk about, let alone plan for getting old, losing capacity or how we will spend our final days.
Worse still, we shy away from confiding in and having that difficult conversation with our families and carers.
According to nation-wide research conducted by leading Vic consumer health advocate, the Health Issues Centre (HIC) this wide-scale reluctance stems from both cultural and behavioural obstacles. “We’re just not comfortable talking about death and decline,” says HIC CEO, Danny Vadasz. “We’re OK talking about retirement and our funeral plans and the things we have put in place for once we have gone, but we don’t want to address the stuff in-between.
“This is in part due to being placed in a wicked dilemma we don’t know how to solve; we don’t want to be a burden to families but are horrified at the prospect of going into residential aged care and losing our independence.
“Often it’s easier putting our heads in the sand and simply not thinking about it.”
Mr Vadasz says another contributor to our inability to talk about decline, incapacity and our final days is about being a nation of procrastinators.
“The Australian-way is not to think about tomorrow unless it is absolutely urgent. Ours is very much a ‘why ruin today by thinking about something terrible tomorrow’ approach or if faced with difficult questions, our frequent response is: ‘Take me out the back and shoot me!’”
Mr Vadasz says the tragic fall-out from this inability to communicate our deepest wishes is that way too many difficult conversations are happening in clinical settings when we are facing a health crisis and health practitioners or family members are left to make tough choices on our behalf, usually without knowing what we want.
“We automatically think our families will know what to do when the time comes but the truth is they often don’t, and what should be a time when families pull together in common grief, can end up in acrimonious disagreement over end-of-life and other options.
“We need to step up and take charge and stop putting the burden on our families.”
The Health Issues Centre, in collaboration with Council of the Aging (COTA) Victoria, is not only looking to kick-start that conversation. More importantly, it is looking at putting us in charge of initiating that conversation and making decision about how we will navigate our latter years.
However, their ‘conversation starter’ is anything but maudlin or serious. Instead it takes the shape of a series of fun-filled and hilarious theatrical events which take participants through a series of encounters, performances and activities designed to gently provoke discussions around ageing and capacity and in the process, open the door to end-of-life decision-making.
Aptly titled, Unspoken: What will become of me? the events provide a safe and non-threatening space for the elderly, their families and carers to discuss what was previously ‘undiscussable’.
Unspoken takes place at the Red Cliffs Civic Centre, 10 Jamieson Avenue, Red Cliffs, on Wednesday, June 27 from 1pm to 4pm, and 6pm to 9pm, and on Thursday, June 28 from 10am to 1pm.
In addition to live performances, activities and installations, Unspoken will also help inform guests about three discrete but connected end-of-life initiatives:
• The Victorian End of Life and Palliative Care Framework. This defines end of life care and ensures people receive the care that respects their preferences.
• Changes to the Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 which enable Victorians to express their wishes around end of life care and treatment through Advance Care Directives that now have statutory recognition.
• The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill which was passed recently by the Victorian Parliament.
Health Issues Centre is Victoria’s peak agency supporting consumers and the health sector to work in partnership to improve healthcare.
TO REGISTER AND BOOK FOR THE SUNRAYSIA EVENT:
Bookings: Call: 5018 8154 or 5018 8100