People should be more prepared to talk to their family and loved ones about their wishes after they die, a leading palliative care expert has said.
The ongoing coronavirus crisis – and the rising number of deaths it is causing – means that individuals should have potentially “difficult” conversations with those close to them.
Baroness Ilora Finlay, of Cardiff University, said patients “must let people know now”.
Her comments follow the publication of new guidance on palliative care.
The Association for Palliative Medicine’s guidance covers subjects including symptom management, communication and bereavement care and advice for health workers and carers on how to broach discussions with patients and their families.
The new guidance for palliative care professionals says “honest conversations” about treatment should start “as early as is practicable” and warns that the nature of COVID-19 means people can “deteriorate quite quickly”.
Baroness Finlay said individuals should consider what treatment they would want – if any – should they fell ill. They should also make their wishes about that – and what to do after the die – known to loved ones.
She told the BBC’s Politics Wales programme: “Up until now, people thought they could plan for everything, but we’ve finally realised that we live with uncertainty all the time, and it’s confronted us head-on.
“So we have to think now: ‘What are the things that really matter to us?’ What are the conversations we should have with those we love, now – not tomorrow or the day after – and what do we need to tell them?”
Baroness Finlay said that for some individuals who are already frail and become ill with the virus, they might not want to go into hospital and be put on a ventilator.
She said: “You must let people know now so that things can be put in place for you.
“Those conversations are difficult for everybody. They’re never easy. We all live thinking it won’t happen to us. But you have to think it might.”
She said practical steps included discussing whether someone has a will and how to access important documents.