Vi­tal for fam­i­lies to dis­cuss death

Taupo & Turangi Weekender - - Letters To The Editor - Rachel Can­ning

Climb­ing Mt Tauhara seven times in one day to com­mem­o­rate her dad dy­ing of cancer seven years ago was ad­ven­ture ther­apy for Taupo¯ woman Tilly Stevens.

The an­niver­sary trip was two years in the mak­ing, and when she first came up with the idea it was only five trips. Some­what daunted by climb­ing Mt Tauhara seven times in a day, she re­duced the chal­lenge to climb­ing con­tin­u­ously for seven hours. Tilly shared her day on so­cial me­dia, with friends join­ing her on all but one trip.

“Even though it’s been seven years ago that Dad died, climb­ing Tauhara was my way of pro­cess­ing things. It was nice to share the ex­pe­ri­ence with friends. As we walked, we chat­ted about peo­ple we had lost.”

Start­ing at 5am on Mon­day Novem­ber 26, by mid-af­ter­noon Tilly had climbed the moun­tain five times, av­er­ag­ing 1.5 hours per trip, even car­ry­ing a friend’s baby half way up. One year the for­mer iron­man com­peti­tor climbed the moun­tain 42 times and another year she climbed it 60 times.

“On trip num­ber five I felt I hadn’t fin­ished the mis­sion, it just didn’t feel com­plete. So I came home, picked the kids up from school, went to swim­ming lessons, cooked din­ner and started on the sixth trip. I fin­ished the sev­enth at 9.45pm.”

Her fa­ther was not an ad­ven­turer and Tilly says she is not even sure he would ‘get it’. But she did the chal­lenge for her­self and to en­cour­age peo­ple to talk about death. Their fam­ily ex­pe­ri­ence of her fa­ther dy­ing was a clas­sic case where he wanted to die at home but didn’t know how to bring it up with the fam­ily. Not want­ing to be a bur­den he vol­un­teered that maybe he should just go to hospi­tal when it was time, but re­vealed his pref­er­ence was to die at home. He got his wish, but Tilly says a lot of el­derly peo­ple make de­ci­sions around their care be­cause they feel they have to take a cer­tain path and don’t re­alise they have op­tions.

Tilly now works as a clin­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion ad­min­is­tra­tor at Lake Taupo¯ Hospice, volunteers on the hospice Be­reave­ment Team, and does vol­un­teer work for St An­drew’s Church Grow­ing Through Grief pro­gramme.

“I have heard older peo­ple say their mid­dleaged chil­dren shut them down when they broach the topic of dy­ing. My mes­sage is there needs to be a so­cial change in our at­ti­tude to­wards death. Fam­i­lies need to dis­cuss it with one another.”

She rec­om­mends hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with the dy­ing per­son be­fore­hand and in­volv­ing the wider fam­ily.

“Find out what what is im­por­tant to them, how they want their fu­neral han­dled and what they want to hap­pen to their body.”

She says some fam­i­lies re­ally need to ‘bash it out’, and get all the de­tails, while oth­ers are happy to make a gen­eral plan.

“If you turn up at hospi­tal with an Ad­vance Care Plan then you have a bet­ter chance of get­ting what you want. Prefer­ably this should be writ­ten down.”

Tilly strongly rec­om­mends ap­point­ing an En­dur­ing Power of At­tor­ney con­tain­ing care pref­er­ences, in the event you lose the abil­ity to speak. She chal­lenges par­ents to talk about organ do­na­tion from a child.

“If you are the par­ent and your child is in in­ten­sive care, then it is very stress­ful to have the ques­tion of organ do­na­tion posed to you for the first time.”

She says if the topic of death is ap­proached tact­fully and re­spect­fully then fam­i­lies can fa­mil­iarise them­selves with­out up­set­ting any­one.

■ Buy a Christ­mas Bauble and sup­port Lake Taupo¯ Hospice this Christ­mas. The baubles are for sale at Farm­ers for $10, and this year’s bauble is de­signed by 9-year-old Mye­sha whose story high­lights Hospice’s fam­ily sup­port teams.

Photo / Sup­plied.

Tilly Stevens on her wed­ding day in 2007, pic­tured with her fa­ther Den­nis Baker, then aged 62.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.