Hospice UK's Dying Matters Awareness Week from 2nd-6th May 2022 aims to get people talking about the difficult topic of dying and what it means to us to be in a good place when we die. Here, Dementia NI member Martin Murtagh explains why he put an Advance Care Plan in place early on in his dementia journey and why he thinks it's crucial to seek appropriate support.
I think it’s very important to make an Advance Care Plan when you're reasonably well and can decide yourself what you want to happen in the future. And I think it’s important that you talk about it with your family and involve them as much as possible.
Three of my sisters were diagnosed with dementia before me. Sadly, my sisters had nothing planned in advance and it meant there was a lot for the family to sort out while we were grieving. It changed my outlook and I realised how important it is to plan for your death early on.
When I was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease aged sixty-three, I was initially in denial. But once I had come to terms with it, I realised I needed to prepare. I dandered into my local funeral parlour and asked for help with funeral plans. They were very reassuring and gave me lots of great advice.
I sat down and had a conversation about my plans with my four sons. My sons are a great support to me and I don’t want them to worry. They know there’s a cupboard where I keep all my papers and everything written down in a folder. It’s insurance policies and funeral plans and grave deeds so all they need to do is arrange things. It takes the worry off me and them knowing that the plans are all there.
Starting a conversation about what you want to happen as your dementia advances is difficult. But when the time comes, your family will be glad to have talked about things in advance. I have had a conversation with my sons about whether I will be cared for in a home or live with one of them when my dementia progresses. It's important to me to speak honestly about things and do what I can to make it easier for my family.
I strongly recommend not waiting until your dementia is too far advanced and someone has to make decisions for you. Do it when you can make decisions on what you want to happen yourself.
There may be people out there who need support with planning ahead. Asking for help is important and nothing to be scared of. I would encourage everyone to seek help, whether from their family and friends or from health or social care professionals.
"Planning for the future isn't morbid, it's reassuring and helps you to live well and keep going.
Thank you to Martin for sharing his story.