Dying to talk about death or dying to avoid the topic

Margaret Kerr Unit at the BGH open day. One of the bedrooms in the unit.
Margaret Kerr Unit at the BGH open day. One of the bedrooms in the unit.

Death, dying and bereavement are often taboo subject sand moves are afoot to try and change that so people can be open about discussing them.

Good Life Good Death Good Grief awareness week takes place from May 13 -19, across Scotland and a range of activities and events are taking place in the Borders including the official opening of the Margaret Kerr Unit at Borders General Hospital on Thursday, May 16.

Sheena MacDonald, medical director said: “Even in good health, dying is something we need to think about and prepare for, no matter how young you feel.

“Nobody enjoys talking about death and it’s natural to forget about it and pretend it won’t happen or affect you. In reality we all know someone who has died and how difficult and sad a time it can be and that’s without the extra stresses that come with it in the way of funeral arrangements, dealings with solicitors, hospitals, relatives.

“The expectations that every aspect of dying will be taken care of by others is not a true one and this can make it harder for the loved ones you leave behind.”

A coffee morning is being held on Friday, May 17, at the Margaret Kerr Unit, giving people a chance to see the new palliative care unit and find out more about its work. There will be information available about support for people locally and a chance to talk informally with NHS Borders staff.

The unit includes eight large single rooms all with fold-down beds for relatives, as well as several large lounges and surrounding gardens and it is estimated that around 200 people a year will use it.

The £4.1 million dedicated palliative care unit opened its doors to its first patients in January this year after the final £1 million was raised in a 16-month fundraising campaign across the region, three months ahead of schedule; appeal chairman James Marjoribanks overwhelmed with the public’s response.

In total, more than 1,000 individual donations were received since the September 2011 launch of the Margaret Kerr Unit Appeal – named after the West Linton nurse who died four years ago and left a bequest of more than £500,000 for a dedicated facility to be built.

Local artist, Clair Norris, will be at the unit on Friday, May 17, to give people the opportunity to make a commemorative tile to contribute to the ‘lasting impressions’ mosaic wall, in remembrance of a loved one. The Lasting Impressions workshop will run until 3pm.

More information on this national awareness week and advice can be found at www.goodlifedeathgrief.org.uk