Using data gathered from terminally ill patients, family members, and healthcare and hospice providers, researchers have put together the factors that make a “good” death.
The study, published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, found 11 core factors — compiled from 36 different studies — that constituent a good death.
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11 Qualities of a Good Death
So what exactly defines a good death? Well, here’s what researchers believe when it comes to dying well:
- Having control over the dying process
- Pain-free status
- Engagement with religion or spirituality
- Having a high sense of emotional wellbeing
- Having a sense of life completion or legacy
- A choice in treatment preferences
- Experiencing dignity in the dying process
- Having family present and saying goodbye
- Quality of life during the dying process
- A good relationship with healthcare providers
- A miscellaneous “other” category which could include various cultural specifics, having pets nearby, or other personal preferences
According to researchers, the three categories consistently listed as “most important” were:
- Preferences for the dying process. This includes what happens after they pass and how their memory will be honored and celebrated.
- Pain-free status. Being free from any physical suffering during the dying process, which is many people’s biggest fear.
- Emotional wellbeing. Being in a familiar and comfortable environment.
In fact, 100% of the patients and their families responded with “preferences for the dying process” as the most important factor for them.
Emotional and Psychological Wellbeing Equally as Important
While being free from physical pain was listed as high importance, many of the other factors on the list focused on the emotional and psychological wellbeing over physical wellbeing when dying.
The senior author on the research team and a professor of psychiatry and neurosciences, Dilip Jeste said in a news release for UC San Diego Health that, “existential and other psychosocial concerns may be prevalent among patients, and this serves as a reminder that we must ask about all facets of care that are essential at the end of life…”
His advice on dying well? Talk to the patient and be more open about what they want, well before the moment comes.
“You can make it possible to have a good death by talking about it sometime before.”
Spurring End-Of-Life Conversations with a Death-Positive Approach
The death positive movement has been trying to do just that. By encouraging people to have more open and honest conversations about end-of-life care and funeral wishes, they believe we can better define a good death — as well as a meaningful funeral experience.
As the death positive movement grows, there are now more resources than ever before. Here are just a few:
- Have the Talk of a Lifetime
- The Order of the Good Death
- End Well Symposium
- Before I Die Festival
- ReImagine End of Life
- Death Cafe
Encourage important end-of-life conversations by downloading our free guide on ideas, tips, and ways to get the conversation started.