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The views and opinions expressed in our blog series are those of the authors and are not necessarily supported by CareSearch, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health.
August 8th is Dying to Know Day – a campaign that encourages people across the country to engage in meaningful conversation around death, dying and loss by hosting events in their local area. This is its 5th year running and it has clocked up over 403 individual events!
So why on earth should we talk about death?!
Many cultures around the world have a different approach to death. In many countries, people generally die at home surrounded by their community, it is an important time for a community to gather and support each other. Death is not a scary thing to talk about because people have seen the process over their lifetime, they are familiar with the rituals and traditions so they know exactly what to expect and how to respond.
The 2017 MOOC global contributions saw a definite desire from people to reclaim dying and death - to be more personally involved in processes which are the natural progressions in life. There was a great sense of 'community' in the need for more knowledge about death, about illness and preparing for death.
Personally for me it drove home the great yawning chasm of a need to educate our health care professionals - to cut out the 'doctor speak' and learn how to talk about dying and death with patients and family. We need trailblazing medicos, astute advanced care planners and guidelines as more and more people wish to be able to die at home. We need a powerful innovative palliative care structure to facilitate people's needs to ensure comfort and safety at end of life.
I really wasn’t sure what this Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on death and dying was going to look like but I dived in boots and all.
I am a nurse working as an End of Life Care Coordinator, so dead, death and dying are among the three most common words I use every day at work. I approached this course not only from a professional point of view but as a member of the community. I feel this made my experience so much richer, as I was able to appreciate the comments from across the board and indeed from across the world.
Over the past two years, CareSearch has hosted Dying2Learn, a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) about death and dying. We created the course hoping we could provide a community platform for open social discussion and connection on death, dying and palliative care – something that at times can be hard to strike up a conversation about in our day-to-day lives.
Australians are not well prepared for death and there are indications that many people are not comfortable talking about death. It may be that as medical advances have improved our life span we have become less familiar with death or that as our community has changed our rituals and practices for caring for the dying have also changed. The last few years have seen an increasing interest in ensuring that dying is recognised within the community. Death education, public health promoting palliative care, death cafes, and compassionate communities are just some of the ways that people are reclaiming an awareness of, and a responsibility for, death and dying.