Let's get talking.....

Why should we ask: ‘What matters to me?'

We all have different ideas about what is important to us. Sharing our ideas can help us be supported to live life the way we want, which is really important if we were to become less well.

If the worst was to happen and we became very ill, having talked to friends, family and health professionals about what matters to us can help make sure that care and medical treatments are based on OUR preferences about how we want to live our lives.

When our wishes are heard and respected, it means we can live better until the very end of life. Having meaningful conversations around what matters to us can make the difference between a peaceful, meaningful ending and a confusing, frightening one.

It can also make the difference between family and friends feeling satisfied they did everything they could for us, and the uncertainty and guilt of not knowing whether they got it right.

What kind of things should we be learning about each other from these conversations?

What Matters Conversations help us to share what makes life feel enjoyable or worthwhile to us. Chatting about our well-being and our hopes for the future might include:

  • What makes us feel calm, content and peaceful?

  • What brings us joy and happiness?

  • What gives us pleasure?

  • What makes us feel secure?

  • What are our hopes?

  • What makes us feel uplifted and hopeful?

  • What makes us afraid or worried?

In the future, if we became so sick that the life left is short, would any of our preferences change? Details matter when we’re not well, so it can help to think and talk about questions like:

  • If we became so sick that the life left was short, what would be the most important things to do with that time?

  • Where would we prefer to live if the end of our life was approaching?

  • Would we prefer time alone, or company? Whose company?

  • Who would we want to care for us? Is there any care we wouldn’t feel comfortable to receive from family or friends?

  • What are our favourite tastes, smells, sounds? Are there tastes, smells or noises we want to avoid?

  • Are we more concerned about how long we live, or about how good our quality of life is? Is there anything that might change that preference?

What happens when we don’t ask What Matters?

As the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is showing so brutally, if we don’t tell those close to us what matters when things are fine, the moment may be lost.

People can end up being somewhere they don’t want to be and without the people and things around that are important. Sometimes, these circumstances might be beyond anyone’s control. But often, making your wishes known in advance can make a difference.

Bereaved relatives may be left distressed and feeling guilty because they didn’t know their loved one’s wishes when medical decisions needed to be made.

How to start a ‘What Matters’ conversation

What Matters conversations are normal everyday conversations or social chats between friends and families – they can take place at home, on a walk, in the pub, anywhere! They are conversations that can be picked up and put down, adapting to our changing lives.

What Matters conversations can also focus on health and may occur between people and their GP, nurse or hospital specialist.

Sometimes, the hardest bit is knowing where how to start. You can find tips and inspiration from the film (film2) and further support, stories and information from Marie Curie’s Talkabout website.

How do these conversations work alongside advance care planning conversations?

Advance Care Planning is specifically about planning the care and treatment we would prefer, or would NOT want, at the end of our lives. By building on the discussions we’ve already had in our What Matters conversations, we can help our doctors and nurses make plans with us for our future care that respect our preferences. And if we don’t feel well enough to have those medical conversations, the family and friends who know what matters to us can let the professionals know.

Because most of us don’t volunteer for these conversations with our medical advisers while we’re well, ACP conversations often take place when it is almost too late.

We’d encourage these conversations – What Matters and ACP – to be intertwined. ‘What Matters to you?’ conversations are a great help when it’s time to think about ACP. By being clear about the things that matter most to us, it’s far easier to wrap future health care around those priorities.

on a bench

around a table

Through a window

On a ZOOM call

In an interview

With a healthcare professional

.....about what matters to me

enjoying nature

Kayaking

Religion

Football

Your kids

Family

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