Survey reveals Covid-19 pandemic has made us rethink how we deal with dying, death and bereavement

Greg Mulhall

Reporter:

Greg Mulhall

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greg.mulhall@iconicnews.ie

Survey reveals Covid-19 pandemic has made us rethink how we deal with dying, death and bereavement

The Irish Hospice Foundation is today publishing a survey of Irish people’s attitudes around death and bereavement which shows a majority of people believe the current Covid-19 pandemic has made us rethink how we deal with dying, death and bereavement.

The survey, conducted by B&A for the Foundation shows that 68% agree the current pandemic has made Irish Society rethink the way it deals with death and bereavement; 10% think we talk too much about death, while 34% think we don’t talk about it enough.

A further 89% say that being together with extended family and friends is a key part of the grieving process;  55% of people say they struggle to know what to say to someone who is bereaved or to know how to support them (this rises to 77% among those under 34 years of age), while 29% believe there are not enough supports available in Ireland for those who have been bereaved – with 27% believing there are enough such supports.

“We know from our work over 30 years that Irish people want a society where death and bereavement is openly talked about and not hidden away, where people can die with dignity and that supports and services are in place for end of life and for loved ones who are bereaved,” said Chief Executive of the Irish Hospice Foundation, Sharon Foley.

“This opinion poll shows us that more than two-thirds believe the COVID-19 pandemic is making us rethink how we deal with dying and bereavement. This supports our belief from decades of experience and our learning from the COVID-19 pandemic that death, dying and bereavement is truly everyone’s business and requires a comprehensive national response.”

The research also showed a significant impact from Covid-19 with measures introduced restricting the numbers at funerals. 89% of people said that being with extended family and friends is key to grieving.

“We know that grieving in isolation has resulted in doubtless suffering for many individuals and families. That is why we have written to the National Public Health Emergency Team calling on them to increase the number of people allowed to attend funerals while maintaining social distancing and other public health measures,” added Sharon Foley.

The Irish Hospice Foundation says the results also highlight the need for further resources and supports for people to deal with death and bereavement. We have gone some way towards addressing this with the development of our Care & Inform online hub during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bringing together their experience in the sector and our most recent learnings from the Covid-19 pandemic, the Irish Hospice Foundation has also today published a new policy document on dying, death and bereavement. The document has been sent to all political parties and outlines the key steps that a new Government can take to ensure that policies and supports for death and bereavement are considered in formation talks.

The seven policy pillars outlined by the Irish Hospice Foundation are:

  • Develop a whole of government strategy to end of life care
  • Renew a national dialogue on dying, death and bereavement
  • Plan community supports on bereavement
  • Establish end-of-life and palliative care services in nursing homes
  • Enable people to die at home or their place of preference
  • Facilitate dialogue and planning for end of life
  • Introduce a new national mortuaries programme

Sharon Foley added: “The Irish Hospice Foundation believes that, in post COVID-19 Ireland, there is now an opportunity to equip all of our State services – including health and social care - to meet the challenges presented by the aftermath of this pandemic.

“All of us in the voluntary and statutory sectors, along with the wider public now have a responsibility to shape the future of dying, death and bereavement in Ireland. One of the main challenges is a whole of government response   – to coordinate, replicate, progress and embed innovative, evidence-based solutions to issues which arise in care of the dying and the bereaved.”