Creating Death Friendly Communities
The Baby Boomer Generation is ageing out, let’s make no mistake about that, it is a clear and present fact. This transition is significant in both its size and in the opportunities it is affording us. The demands this phenomenon will place on our systems of care will be triple what it can handle and most of us will have to die in the family home.
We currently have 950,000 baby boomers living in British Columbia. Yep, that is a lot of old folks and we are limited in our capacity to support those who will need care. We have 28,000 long-term care beds, 10,500 hospital beds and only 260 hospice beds available to serve those folks who may require care services. If a mere 15% of our boomers needs some sort of end of life assistance that is 142,500 people! Never mind the other 800,000 folks that will require some sort of family or neighborly support as they die.
The old adage ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ is also very true for end of life. It will take a village to die well as the demand for care services will outstrip our current institutional capacity to help out. We will need to think out of the box in order to support the families, neighborhoods and communities that will be facing a wave of death never seen before.
We could begin to offer community training and education that would provide village members and family members with the knowledge and skills needed to create a death friendly community. We could create a web of support that would see neighbors helping neighbors as dying, death, and grief knock on their door. We could create ways to identify those needing support, similar to the black armbands used in Italy years ago. Perhaps it could be a colorful flag placed on the front lawn that would represent an invitation for support.
We could put our collective village minds together and develop some unique and creative ways to use dying and death as a way to build healthy and active communities.