Dying Matters: Some tips for hospices on how to get involved
On Thursday 23 November, a group of early-risers at Hospice UK’s National Conference gathered for an early breakfast to talk about all things Dying Matters.
Dying Matters Awareness Week takes place each May, and is an invaluable opportunity for communities to talk about death, dying and bereavement. In 2017, nearly 600 events shared information with over half a million members of the public, and it’s our hope that we’ll see even more events in the 2018 Awareness Week, taking place from 14-20 May. The theme for this year is ‘What can you do in your community?, focusing on how people can encourage supportive conversations about death, dying and bereavement in schools, the workplace, hospices and other community areas.
Many hospices up and down the country get involved in the Dying Matters campaign every year, hosting great events that engage their communities and lessen the taboo and stigma around talking about death and dying. The breakfast event hosted at conference was a chance for hospice representatives to talk to each other about what worked in previous awareness weeks and what didn’t, as well as for anyone new to the campaign to find out more. It was a productive session with some great ideas, and we thought we’d share some takeaways for anyone thinking about hosting their own Dying Matters event.
- It’s community activities that really change minds. Ultimately, the Dying Matters campaign is a social movement that depends on engagement from the public to thrive. When you plan your Dying Matters events, think about how you can incorporate activities that are accessible to everyone in your community, and engage everyone who attends. You can include things like ‘Before I Die’ boards, or ‘Five Things to do before I die’ cards that people can work on and fill out while they’re having conversations. Activities where everyone can participate will most likely lead to better conversations than hosting a lecture.
- Think about how to engage other stakeholders. Reaching everyone in a community can be a challenging prospect, but people may be accessing other services that have a vested interest in encouraging more open conversations about death and dying. One hospice described a partnership with a local GP surgery, in which videos about Dying Matters Awareness Week were played in the waiting room. Have a think about local organisations and services you could reach out to.
- Acknowledge that talking about death and dying is a hard thing to do. Dying Matters is a movement that relies on the hard work and good will of volunteers, but even those who are familiar with the work of your hospice will likely find it difficult to know how to start conversations about death and dying with members of the general public. Dying Matters has some great resources and conversation starters that you could familiarise volunteers with before the event.
- Do what’s right for your community. We don’t believe that there is any set template for a successful Dying Matters event. These conversations are all community-led, and so the events need to be right for the people you’re trying to reach. Death Cafes are a great way to encourage informal chats and open conversations about death, dying and bereavement, and there are many people who love them. However, one hospice highlighted that many people in their community found the name ‘Death Café’ off-putting, or intimidating. Don’t be afraid to change things up to suit the people in your local areas – we encourage you to be as creative as you like.
If you are thinking about organizing a Dying Matters event in your area, you can come to our Awareness Week 2018 Launch Event in February. A range of speakers will set the scene, provide ideas and inspiration and offer practical advice on how to create and deliver a successful Dying Matters event in your community. There will be a chance to see the range of resources available, talk to others and share ideas, as well as picking up suggestions and materials from the exhibition space.