Core Modules

module 1 | Activity 5: William’s story

So far in this module, we have explored factors that influence people’s experience of dying and death in contemporary Australia. We would now like to introduce you to William.

William is a 60-year-old man who grew up in a large family in a regional area of Australia. Over the years, like many of his generation, he has seen enormous improvements in the quality of healthcare and life expectancy. This is due to such things as the introduction of immunisation, antibiotics and new medical technology.

William has also seen how family structures have changed. He has seen:

  • The introduction of aged care facilities to care for frail older people who were previously cared for by their families at home.
  • Government changes which have supported the introduction to care and support for people affected by life-limiting illness at home, in a hospital, in a hospice and in residential aged care facilities.
  • Technological changes that have assisted with illness management.
  • Advances in medication that have resulted in people living longer with life-limiting illness.

William is concerned that he may be diagnosed with a life-limiting illness due to changes in his normal bowel habits. He has gone to his GP for advice.

  1. William said he thought he had an outside chance of living to a ‘ripe old age’ and that he doesn’t usually think much about dying.
    • How can these beliefs influence how he responds to a diagnosis of a potential life-limiting illness?
    • What societal and personal factors contributed to his beliefs? Consider in detail:
      • Scientific developments
      • Demographic changes
      • William’s experience with death
      • William’s age.
  2. How can William’s cultural background influence his response to his illness?
  3. In what ways would this response differ from a person who comes from a different cultural background?
  4. What is your immediate reaction to William’s and his wife’s situation and their immediate and ongoing needs as a couple – and as individuals?