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Survey reveals Victorians hesitant to talk about death and palliative care

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Palliative Care

A new survey released by Palliative Care Victoria reveales that almost half of Victorians are not willing to talk about death and dying with their friends and family.

The survey of 1000 Victorians, released to coincide with the start of National Palliative Care Week, showed that while in theory most respondents agreed it was important to talk openly about death and dying, in reality people rarely do it. The survey revealed 46 percent stated they had never (20 per cent) or rarely (26 per cent) spoken about death and dying to their friends and family over the past 12 months.

The survey also revealed that respondents whose first language isn’t English were far less likely to access palliative care for themselves or a loved one. Moreoever, Females were more likely to speak to their loved ones about death or dying, with27.3 percent of women discussing the topics more than 5 times in the past 12 months compared to 23 per cent of males.

Of the respondents that stated they didn’t speak about death and dying to their family and friends, the top three reasons as to why were: They didn’t want to think about dying (35 per cent), they didn’t think their family or friends would feel comfortable talking about death (31 per cent), or they thought they were too young to think about dying (24 per cent).

Palliative Care Victoria CEO, Violet Platt, said the data shows the need for more open conversations and greater education around topics like death, grief and palliative care within the community.

“Research has shown that raising awareness and helping people understand the importance of palliative care is necessary to ensure that they can talk about their wishes for end of life. In turn, raising awareness of the services available should help individuals and their loved ones to seek and find support they need to live well until the end of life,” said Platt.

To assist Victorians with talking to their family and friends about end of life, the organisation has developed free resources that are available to download from its website, to help people start discussions with their loved ones, including “Conversation Starters”.

“We understand death and dying is an uncomfortable subject for some Victorians. This is why we created the ‘Taking Time to Talk’ campaign to commence from National Palliative Care Week,” said Platt. 

“Sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin. We hope that the ‘Taking Time to Talk’ resources will help Victorians navigate these difficult discussions and in turn, create a more open conversation about death in homes, workplaces and within friendship groups,” she said.  

The survey also revealed more than half (53 per cent) said they would be unlikely or extremely unlikely to ask for palliative care for themselves or a loved one, with the most popular reasons being that they think it is too expensive (21 per cent), they don’t know what palliative care is (15 per cent) or they only think it is for old people (13 per cent). 

“It is clear that there is still a lack of understanding of what palliative care is. People think it is expensive, hard to access or only for those in aged care homes, but it is none of those things,” said Platt. 

“Palliative care is about supporting all patients with a life limiting illness, as well as their carers and loved ones, to live, die and grieve well. Palliative care is so much more than just medical care – it involves a team and a community approach including doctors, nurses, social workers, volunteers, family and friends,” she said. 

“As Palliative Care Victoria enters its 40th Year of service to the Victorian community, it is important for us to continue advancing palliative care, and continue improving access for all.” 

“We hope all Victorians will take the time to talk about the important things in life with their loved ones, which in turn will encourage more people to access services if they need it, despite age, gender, ethnicity, or religious background,” she added. 


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Pearl Dy is a community manager and journalist. She is passionate about business and development particularly involving not-for-profits, charity and social entrepreneurship.


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