Making the end-of-life planning conversation easier

Dying to Know Day is an annual campaign held during the month of August designed to improve community knowledge around choice at end of life. For staff and providers of aged care services – where 60% of predictable deaths occur – the conversation around the end of life is important.

Karen Dawson, CEO of aged care sector community organisation Community Care and Wellbeing (CCNB), calls end-of-life planning an act of love.

“Our Care Coordination Team works closely with older Australians and their families every day supporting their choices to live independently in their own homes and in care. We see the benefits for families where there is conversation and certainty about what needs to happen as health and lifestyle requirements change towards end-of-life. We know that providing impartial information about the importance of end-of-life planning can make conversations easier and increase the quality of time available to older Australians and their families,” said Ms Dawson.

CCNB has newly released survey data (see below) about the attitudes and behaviours of Australians around end-of-life planning which informs the provision of CCNB quality services. The research from their partner organisation, The Groundswell Project Australia (organisers of Dying to Know Day), surveyed Australians of all ages, over one-third of whom were 65 years or older.

Getting Dead Set: An Overview of Australian Attitudes and Behaviours around End-of-Life Planning, August 2022)

Some key learnings included that:

  • Almost 90% of Australians believe that end-of-life planning is important, but only 35% of us have done anything about it.  
  • Almost 60% of older Australians do have some end-of-life planning in place. Common actions amongst people who have some planning in place are wills and funeral plans. Much less common are advanced care plans. 

The research highlights that people with good information about end-of-life issues are more likely to feel comfortable talking with their personal and professional support networks to ensure that their wishes are actioned. Almost every survey respondent who had taken some action, such as accessing information, said they were also comfortable talking about end-of-life.

However, the researchers discovered that:

  • One-quarter of us are uncomfortable having any conversations about end-of-life
  • One-third of us are not seeking information or considering end-of-life planning in the next 5-10 years
  • Two-thirds of us said there are barriers to undertaking end-of-life planning.

Australians told us what some of those barriers are: 

  • Not knowing how to begin end-of-life planning or where to go for information and guidance
  • Feeling death is too emotional to discuss
  • Not knowing what choices are available.

Armed with these insights, aged care providers can better support end-of-life planning with some simple steps.

  • Create opportunities for residents and families to find their own starting point for an end-of-life conversation (such as an annual Dying to Know Day Event).
  • Provide information about end-of-life choices to increase people’s comfort about having difficult conversations.   
  • Normalise the emotion of talking about dying and death.

The research asked Australians a confronting question, says Karen Dawson:

 “If you died unexpectedly, would your end-of-life planning help the people you care about?”  

Karen Dawson, CEO of Community Care and Wellbeing

Almost half of the respondents said that it would reduce the mental burden experienced by loved ones and one-third believed that end-of-life planning would help with grief and healing.

Even those who said they are not ready for end-of-life planning told us that end-of-life planning would help the people they care about.

Aged care providers can create opportunities that are culturally safe and supportive to talk about dying so older people can make their wishes known.

It’s never too soon to start conversations about end-of-life with families and with residents if they wish to do so. Simple information, confident conversations, respect for individual values and choices all go towards creating the right space within which families can tackle these tough but crucial conversations which affirm life and living well until the last. 

Learn more about CCNB Ltd here:

Find out more about Getting Dead Set:  An Overview of Australian Attitudes Around Death, Dying and End-of-Life Planning at:


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