We all die one day, ready or not. So why do so many of us act as if we won’t? The oldest law firm in South Australia wants more people to talk about it.
Medical breakthroughs and public health improvements have greatly increased life expectancy.
Other medical and technical developments have enabled many people to remain active for longer, giving them a better quality of life, as well as a longer life.
The flipside of this is the ballooning cast of care, accomodation and medications for the over 70’s.
Although the Bible (Psalms) talks about the human lifespan being three score years and ten (70 years), according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a person born in 2015 is expected to live between 33.2 years and 33.7 years longer than someone born in 1890.
Over the last 130 years life expectancy increased from 47.2 years to 80.4 years for males and from 50.8 years to 84.5 years for females.
But we all die in the end, whether we like it or not. So why do so many of us act as if we won’t?
Why can’t we have sensible discussion about death and all it involves?
It didn’t use to be this way. Death was once a very ordinary conversation to have with your family. Talking about “a good death” was common.
People still grieved and mourned the loss of their loved-ones, of course – but the prolongation of life at all costs is largely a modern development.
Even the Egyptian pharoes who built enourmous funeral chambers known as pyramids weren’t trying to avoid death in this life, but instead to prepare for life in the next world.
And perhaps this is part of the reason why nowadays it seems that death must be postponed as long as possible – at any cost.
Perhaps the declining influence of religious beliefs and the loss of faith in a ‘next-life’ is driving increased desperation to avoid confronting our own mortality.
Perhaps ‘the big unknown’ is just too scarey to contemplate in the absence of belief in an afterlife. Better to hang onto this life – at any cost, because at least it is a known quantity.
Or maybe as a society we have become less willing to take personal responsibility for ourselves and our families – perhaps we are putting our heads in the sand, and hoping someone else will take care of it for us. Deny, avoid, evade.
It’s standard procedure for profit-seeking corporates, so it seems logical that the relentless influence of commercialism might have modeled behaviour for us.
It might also be suggested that modern humans have largely replaced their religious faith with faith in medicine and science instead.
Evil spirits aren’t hurting us – bacteria and viruses are doing that, and that’s just a mechanical problem for the doctors and scientists to fix with a pill or procedure.
So maybe death can be put-off indefinitely. Medicos are about easing suffering, but it cannot be denied that their allied industries benefit and profit from the staving-off of death.
All of this has led to the current state of poor-planning for death that now prevails in modern Australia.
However, change is underway. At the end of 2019 – two Australian States have legalised euthenasia – Victoria and Western Australia.
This marks a subtantial change in end-of-life planning in modern Australia. Perhaps this can catalyse the sorts of conversations we ought to be having.
Only about a third of Australian adults have made a Will. Even fewer have made funeral plans.
Fewer again have made a decision about organ donation, and fewer again have made plans for the sort of care they’d like to receive if they are no longer able to decide for themselves.
If you haven’t made any end-of-life plans, it can initially seem a bit daunting: you’ve got to think about Wills, funerals, organ donations, enduring powers of attorney, advance care directives, retiremnet accomodation … where do you start? It’s too easy to look at this and give up with a ‘what can you do?’ shrug.
You can plan to get get the care you want, and not receive any treatment you don’t want, if you make a plan and write it down.
Sadly, some people who opt to be organ donors do not donate after they die, as the family blocks it, because they are unaware of their loved one’s wish.
Talking about death is important, followed by making plans and then sharing them.
Demographics mean that the number of annual deaths in Australia is going to rise steadily over the next 15 years, having been declining for decades.
Many people would choose to die at home, in a place that’s familiar and friendly.
As the government agrees that people’s wishes should be respected, this means many more ending their days at home, rather than in hospital, where currently about half of all deaths happen.
We know that health and social care finances are tight, so how is this going to be done? It’s going to need all of us to help.
We’re going to have to become used to helping our families deal with illness, death and bereavement, and increasingly, we are going to have to help our friends and communities as well.
You can’t escape death, but you can get your plans in place. Once you’ve done this, it will be a relief to you and to your loved ones.
We’ve all heard horror stories about disputes over property when there wasn’t a Will, or arguments about what someone would have wanted for their funeral. Making plans and writing them down will avoid this.
You’re not immortal. Don’t put this off any longer.
The oldest law firm in South Australia – Genders and Partners, established 1848 – specialises only in Trusts, Wills and Estates, and provides hundreds of free articles on Wills, end-of-life planning and creating a modern integrated estate plan to guard against intestacy, or other estate planning topics.
Contact Genders and to explore our articles and visit our website today to schedule your free and convenient telephone consultation!
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