It’s the topic that most people avoid talking about – the end of life.
But it is an important one to discuss, especially if you have specific wishes or plans that you want carried out.
What happens if a loved one becomes incapacitated? What happens when a loved one dies? Do they have special requests? What happens with their estate? Do they have a will?
These are all very important questions that need to be discussed.
Traditionally we don’t like to talk about planning for what happens in the case of a medical emergency, where a person cannot make decisions for themselves, or a person wishing to make known their preferences for when they die. This planning is essential so that a person’s family can act according to their wishes, not their best guess for what the person would have wanted.
In 2013, Limerick City & County Council rolled out its Age Friendly Limerick programme. At that time, consultation was conducted with older people from across both City and County on issues of concern to them. That led to the establishment of the Age Friendly Alliance and the formation of Limerick Older Peoples Council. Working in collaboration, they oversaw the publication of the Limerick Age Friendly Strategy 2015 – 2020. The Age Friendly limerick programme officially declared Limerick as an ‘Age Friendly’ location. It committed for the first time to improving key areas of infrastructure, services, information and an overall social response to older peoples issues. It stated that Limerick should be “a place where more and more older people can stay living in their own homes and communities, lead healthy and active lives, get to where they want to go, when they want to go, and are valued contributors to the lives of their communities.” One of the issues identified in the Age Friendly Strategy was “maintaining independence and freedom of choice.”
In late 2019, following discussions between Limerick Age Friendly Programme and The Irish Hospice Foundation, it was decided to launch an initiative called “Putting Your House in Order”.
“Putting Your House in Order” is a series of workshops which were held at various locations throughout Limerick City and County during the month of February 2020. The workshops were organised by Age Friendly Limerick and covered the following topics:
- Care Preferences – Advance Healthcare Directive, Designated Healthcare Representative, Life Sustaining Treatments, CPR etc.
- Legal – Enduring Power of Attorney, Making a Will etc.
- Financial – Bank Accounts, Insurance, Life Assurance, Credit Cards, Tax Affairs, Pensions etc.
- When I Die – Organ/ Body Donation, Post Mortem, Funeral and Burial Arrangements etc.
Each workshop was delivered in two parts, the first part covered wills, enduring power of attorney and other legal issues, and was delivered by a Solicitor. A Public Engagement Officer (PEO) with the Irish Hospice Foundation delivered the second part of the workshop. The PEO focused on the other three headings, Care Preferences, Financial matters, and When I Die, and thoroughly explained the Hospice Foundations book “Think Ahead” to the attendees.
After each session, the attendees were given an opportunity to ask questions relevant to each of the talks. There were two question and answer sessions, one at the end of each presentation.
In total, Age Friendly Limerick hosted 5 information sessions. The sessions were held in each of the municipal districts of Limerick. The Metropolitan District, which covers the city urban area and extends outwards towards the southwest and the north east of the city, Adare-Rathkeale in the north west of the county, Newcastlewest, in the south west of the county and Cappamore-Killmallock covering the east of the county.
Attendance at the “Putting your house in order” workshops was much higher than anticipated, with almost 400 people attending the events. 35% of those who attended were aged 60 – 69 years, 40% of those who attended were aged 70– 79 years, and 10% were aged 80 – 89 years. Of the remaining 15%, 1% were aged over 90 and the final 14% were under 60 years.
Nationally, our population is increasing on an annual basis. It is projected that by the year 2026, there will be 861,000 people over the age of 65 living in Ireland, and that figure will have risen to 1.4 million by the year 2046. In 2011 the CSO stated there were 128,000 people over 80 in Ireland, this figure is projected to rise to almost half a million by 2046, therefore, future life planning is an important part of life, no matter whether you are a retired person, parent of a young family or an empty nester.
70% of those who attended the sessions were women and 25% were men. This may indicate that women tend to be more concerned about their future affairs and may feel the need to take on more responsibility, while men may not want to think about the future especially when end of life is the topic. The remaining 5% identified as “other.”
As this was the first time a series of events on this topic was run in Limerick, we wanted to measure the attendees’ feedback. Attendees stated that they found the presentations helpful and informative and that the content was organised and easy to follow. They also reported that they would recommend this event to others.
There were some additional areas that attendees would like included in future talks. Those topics included pensions, tax repercussions for loved ones who benefit from a will, discussion on the Fair Deal Scheme, and more detail on how to start the conversation of their wishes around death and dying with their family. It is planned that once Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed and groups can meet again, Age Friendly Limerick will expand the “Putting Your House in Order” initiative to include some of the suggestions made by the attendees.