Talking about the end of life with Lucie

Specialist Adviser in End of Life Care, Macmillan Cancer Support

When I tell people I work in end of life care they often respond by saying it must be hard or depressing. Sometimes it is hard, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be rewarding and bring hope. By looking at how we want to die, we can learn a lot about how we want to live as well.

I see patients who haven’t had the conversations they might have wanted to about death and dying with their loved ones all the time. I recently met a gentleman who was very close to the end of his life, probably in his last hours and days. He was unprepared, no one had spoken to him about how unwell he was or what his wishes were – even though there had likely been several opportunities in the preceding months.

He asked me why no one had told him. There was nothing I could say other than that I was sorry, and I wished someone had spoken to him earlier. All choice was taken away from him by that stage as he was too ill to have any kind of conversation.

His wife suspected he would have wanted to go home to die, but she and I both knew it was too late to have that option open to him. We provided the best care we could, but so much can be done by having honest conversations and planning your care options in advance.

Having these important conversations early is rewarding – and much more positive than you would think – for me, and for the person and their loved ones I’m talking to. It means they can get on with living life as fully as possible, knowing that what’s important to them has been shared.  And that’s why my job isn’t just depressing – it brings hope.

Most of us, if given the choice, would prefer honesty and it’s important that we all think about what is likely to matter to us at the end of our lives and plan accordingly.

By looking at how we want to die, we can learn a lot about how we want to live.

Lucie, Specialist Adviser in End of Life Care