Is Death Still a Taboo Topic?

Unfortunately yes. Ageing is the most natural and assured occurrence that any of us will ever experience.

As we go about dealing with the responsibilities of our day-to-day lives, slowly and inevitably, time marches on.

But no matter who we are, or the lifestyle we lead, eventually we all meet the same fate.

Death is the great equalizer. 

There’s no bias, no loopholes and no avoidance. Yet within the current day landscape of Australian society it is still very much a touchy and taboo topic.

The subject of death and the factors leading up to it are obviously not the easiest things to talk about. 

They are scary, difficult and often easier to cast aside in one’s mind. 

Often it is not  our own death that presents this mental barrier, but considering the death of someone you care about deeply is naturally very hard.

People’s reluctance to discuss their and others mortality is understandable, but our lack of conversation regarding this matter creates some real problems.

The first is the persistent problem in Australian social policy regarding the appropriate funding and support of palliative and end of life care services. 

Social and medical developments of recent decades in particular have resulted in incredible advances in our ability to save life, treat and manage illness and disease. 

Much of this treatment for serious illness happens within a hospital, and resultantly, that is where most people die, despite many preferring to die somewhere else.

It does not have to be this way. 

Appropriate levels of palliative care across the community, including from specialised hospices, in family homes, and in residential aged care would provide an incredible step forward in the end of life experience for many Australians, and also, save Australia’s public hospital system hundreds of millions of dollars every year. 

Money that could then be spent on other important initiatives.

The other big problem our reluctance to talk about death brings is chaos towards the end of life. 

Too often when our mortality comes into focus, we have no plans, goals or aspirations as to how we might want to live out our last few days, months or years. 

We see this in residential aged care everyday. 

Families often find themselves thrust into our very complicated social services system when a loved one becomes seriously ill or frail. 

They have to make a range of stressful and serious decisions, whilst they are upset, scared and unsure. This is a very hard time for all involved.

We need to get comfortable with having frank conversations with our loved ones about death. 

Talking about how you might want to live out your last years, or moments, and putting some plans in place does not make you a monster. 

It is good practice, it will help those you care about when the time comes, and most of all, it will greatly improve your own life experience in your twilight years.


On behalf of the Aged Care Guild


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