The COVID-19 crisis has brought death and dying into sharp focus. Some people simply will not recover from contracting COVID-19 or may be left more vulnerable to poor health and illness, shortening their lives even when they have recovered. For others, the response to COVID-19 has left them more vulnerable to other health crises with many more excess deaths occurring during this crisis above and beyond the COVID-19 deaths. On both fronts, older people represent the overwhelming majority of deaths.
Age UK’s coronavirus hub has a comprehensive and thoughtful range of information on topics related to death and dying which may be helpful:
the topics Age cover include:
- Dealing with grief during the pandemic
- Can I visit someone who is dying?
- Grieving in isolation
- Remembering and celebrating a loved one
- How can I help someone who is grieving?
There is also information about how to arrange a funeral during the pandemic here:
The COVID-19 crisis may also have made those who are vulnerable, but unaffected, think more about death and dying generally. For those who have been prompted, Age UK has a useful resource that can be accessed here.
Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNAR) – understanding your rights
An issue many older people have had to deal with is unexpected approaches by their GP surgery to have Important conversations about their wishes for future care needs, which is sometimes called advanced care planning . This has included some feeling under pressure to make instant decisions about ‘do not attempt resuscitation’ (DNAR) notices put in their medical notes or to agree to refusing conveyance to hospital if they develop a serious health need.
These practices, when done properly, play an important part in supporting people to discuss, share and make end of life choices. However, the approach taken by some health professionals during this crisis abandoned many of the key principles that should guide such conversations. These include: not applying blanket policies – e.g. all people over a certain age or all local care home residents – in determining who to approach; making space for someone to refuse to have the conversation if they do not want to have it; and to be compassionate and patient at all times.
Age UK has been extremely concerned that the outcome of some of these conversations may have led to people not receiving hospital care when they otherwise would have done, including people with COVID-19. It is inarguable that they have caused many people and their family’s immeasurable distress and worry.
AgeUK believe that the core principles of good end of life care must not be compromised in the shadow of COVID-19, whether during the crisis or when we come out of it. Informing and supporting people to make joint decisions about future care, including refusing treatment, has a crucial part to play in good outcomes at end of life. However, this should never compromise someone’s access to care and treatments they can benefit from and should be driven by individual wishes and preferences. There is a useful and comprehensive range of information about end of life issues on our website including advice on making a will, powers of attorney and financial planning: