Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

current issue

June – July 2024 : Reflections READ ONLINE


Dying FAQs *

September 01 2019

Everyone deserves to die with dignity and respect says Andrew Knee from St Mungo’s palliative care.

* FAQ means: "Frequently Asked Questions"

The Departure Lounge: popped up in Lewisham shopping centre, in May, to help people talk more openly about death. Serious stuff but there was plenty to giggle about including what people say to avoid using the D word, such as kick the bucket, pushing up the daisies, popped your clogs… © AK

Q: Why don’t people know much about dying?
There’s such a taboo about talking about death. What we need to do is communicate better and talk to one another. Certain cultures are better at celebrating a person’s life – think of the Mexican Day of the Dead or the jazz funerals of New Orleans.

Q: When will I stop feeling so sad?
The famous five stages of grief include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. But not a lot of people know that these aren’t necessarily linear. All five stages could be mixed up. You might even have two at the same time.

Q: Why’s it good to talk about dying?
People need to feel in charge. Then they are more inclined to take part and use the service.

Q: How does palliative care help?
Well if you were close to death with a terminal illness, I’d help you live your last months the best you can. We’d talk on a one-to-one basis and I’d ask you what you want and make sure that was respected. For example: Do you want treatment? Would you refuse resuscitation? Do you want to be remembered or not? What about burial or cremation? Support doesn’t stop when that person dies – everyone’s affected by that person passing. We can offer emotional and practical support and a befriender service.

Q: What’s different about your work with people who are homeless?
Sometimes people don’t feel that they deserve a choice because of their past – for example if they have cirrhosis of the liver. But you do deserve a choice about how you want to die and how to have your wishes heard. We want to make sure people have that choice.

Q: Andy, what’s your own end of life plan?
If I was terminally ill, I would:

1. Prefer to die at home or in a hospice.
2. Like a view from my bed and I’d like music.
3. Want to be cremated.

In a nutshell

  • St Mungo’s website helps explain everything about death and dying, from treatment to funerals,
  • Compassion in Dying helps people plan for the end of life. Free info line open MondayFriday, 9am–5pm on 0800 999 2434
  • Gentle Dusk organises workshops to empower communities to talk about death and plan for the end of life, See Death Café on p14.
  • Dying Matters aims to change the public's knowledge, attitudes and behaviours towards dying, death, and bereavement,

Time for a change?

“Hostels are not care homes, though some could be as the health needs of residents are so high. There needs to be some kind of specialist hospice for people who’ve been homeless,” says Martin Murphy Homeless Health Peer Advocacy (HHPA) manager at Groundswell, the homeless health charity. “People experiencing homelessness may go into palliative care at a younger age and die for different reasons – organ failure and/or problems with continued use of drugs for example.

If you have a number of people in need of palliative care within a hostel and there are no nursing staff on site, are those residents really receiving the level of care they need? Some of these people have been excluded all their lives, let’s not exclude them at the end of their lives."

  • If you need support for your health care – a companion or a champion – Groundswell can help. Call 020 7725 2851
  • Also cut out and keep the health care card on the back page to make sure a GP will see you.
  • Lots of good info about handling cancer on