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Courses on death and dying helping to create conversation

Talking about death and dying is almost never easy, but it is becoming more common and more of a priority to many Australians, thanks to a growing number of resources and courses all focused on improving death literacy.

A course on death literacy is taking participants for the third year (Source: Shutterstock)
A course on death literacy is taking participants for the third year (Source: Shutterstock)

One of the courses proving popular as a kickstarter to the education and conversations of many Australians is Adelaide’s Flinders University’s ‘Dying2Learn’ course.

Enrollments and expressions of interest for the course, developed by a team of palliative care experts at the University under the Department of Health funded CareSearch program, are now open, following two previously successful years.

CareSearch Director and Flinders University researcher at the college of Nursing and Public Health, Professor Jennifer Tieman, says Dying2Learn offers “fantastic series of conversations”, adding that with Australia’s ageing population and corresponding increase in chronic diseases, the demand for such initiatives like this course, could keep rising.

“Being able to talk about death is important in normalising death as a part of life and being equipped to prepare for the end,” Professor Tieman explains.

“Dying2Learn is an innovation in online way of learning that shares key information on various issues about palliative care, death and dying.”

A recent analyses of the program’s first intake of participants in 2016, shows those taking part in the course felt “more comfortable talking about death and dying” after completing the course.

“People reflected on why we use euphemisms, how we create images of death and dying in art, literature and film, whether death is being medicalised, and how social media and technology is changing our view,” Professor Tieman says.

“Our evaluation of course responses were mostly favourable, with activity engagement indicating that people were interested and connected with the content.

“While most participants felt relatively comfortable talking about death and dying before they started, they were more comfortable at the end of the course.

“They also reported that they would recommend the course to others.”

She adds that the course filled up quickly in both 2016 and 2017 with Australian, UK, US, Canadian and New Zealand enrollments and has 1775 potential participants already registered for this year as well.

Palliative Care Australia has welcomed the third intake of course participants for Dying2Learn, with Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Liz Callaghan saying the national organisation is supportive of any initiative that encourages people to learn about end-of-life and palliative care, and more importantly discuss their wishes with their loved ones.

“People are very good at planning for things like retirement, superannuation and the like, but studies show that most don’t plan for their end-of-life care; they think that it’s something that is important to do, but put it off for a variety of reasons,” Ms Callaghan explains.

“We know that when people talk about their care wishes with their loved ones and health professionals, they are more likely to get the care they want if they can no longer speak for themselves.

“It’s important that all Australians plan for their end-of-life care, as everyone will one day die.

“It’s really important to have an advance care plan that outlines your wishes, and to discuss this document with your loved ones.”

Ms Callaghan says that this course, along with many other resources made available online have a range of benefits when it comes to those looking to become more ‘death literate’.

“The ability to learn together in a supportive environment online with experts in palliative care is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the dying process and the care options you have.

“Palliative Care Australia’s Dying to Talk website also has resources to help people work out what matters most to them and assists them to start the conversation with their loved ones and health professionals.”

Registrations for Flinders University’s Dying2Learn course, which is set to run from 28 May to 9 July 2018, can be made online, with any questions or comments able to be sent to dying2learn@flinders.edu.au

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