You only die once...

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John Dallat MLA met recently with staff from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust to talk about preparing for death and the importance of Dying Matters Awareness Week which takes place from 12-18 May 2014.

The initiative aims to encourage everyone to take five simple steps that can make a big difference to people when they are dying or bereaved.

None of us want to think about getting ill or dying but it is important to plan your future care and support as you get older or when you are ill, to record your funeral wishes, consider registering as an organ donor which can help save and transform lives of desperately ill people and most importantly of all telling your loved ones your wishes.

Although this could be difficult, having these discussions can be very useful for you and those important to you. This allows you to share your thoughts and feelings about the future and gives those close to you an opportunity to talk openly about what you want.

Talking about death and end of life issues with family and friends is not easy but by encouraging our loved ones to talk about it we can help them get the care and support they want and where they want it at the end of their lives.

Another MLA supporting the initiative is Paul Girvan. Following his wife Mandy’s illness a few years ago he knows only too well what goes through your mind when a family member is unwell. He said:

“During a time of illness you often let your mind run away with you and inevitably you think that the worst is going to happen like I thought while my wife was in Antrim Area Hospital.

“While she was in intensive care I realised there were quite a few things I didn’t know such as how she would like to be cared for during her illness, if she died we had never discussed what sort of funeral she would want and I didn’t know if she would like to be an organ donor.

“One thing I did do following my wife’s illness was make a will so that our family would know what our wishes would be for a funeral and our possessions when we died.

“I would encourage everyone to think ahead to the time when you or a family member will be ill and you need to know what they would want you to do. It’s so much easier to cope with the decisions that need to be made when you have had a conversation with them and know what they want you to do”.