Palliative and end of life care is rated highly in Sweden, but, as in many other countries, people find it hard to talk about death and dying.
”Alla vet ju vi att den dagen kommer” (We all know that that day will come) is the work of Martin von Krogh, an award-winning photographer with Moments agency and works freelance for the Swedish newspaper, Expressen.
Inger Jonsson was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in early October. A little while after, she moved in with her son, Björn and his wife Carina, who looked after her until her death on 15 November.
The emotional film follows the family during Inger’s last days and can be watched on the Expressen website (in Swedish).
In the 2010 report The quality of death by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Sweden ranked 16th (out of 40 countries), with high rankings for ‘cost of end of life care’ and ‘availability of end of life care’. Sweden also received the highest ranking for ‘availability and use of opioids’, and was scored reasonably well for ‘public awareness of end of life care’ (above US but below UK).
The EAPC Atlas of Palliative Care in Europe 2013 reports that in Sweden “there has been increased interest in palliative care among the general public, administrators and healthcare professionals and politicians.”
Recent developments (since 2006) include a national cancer strategy, new palliative care guidelines and increased financial support and administrative pressure to use the Swedish palliative care quality registry.
It also reports that “there has been a positive change in public awareness and perception of hospice and palliative care.”
Martin wrote to ehospice about his reasons for making this film. He said: “It all started last summer when my grandmother’s sister passed away. I sat with her husband and talked about how it used to be when he was a kid.
Back in the 40s and 50s they used to have something called ‘deathcabins’ (directly translated from Swedish). This was a part of your house which you changed once you had somebody that died. You dressed up the person so he or she looked good and then friends, family and neighbours could come and say farewell.
People back then where much more relaxed about death. One reason is that back then people couldn’t afford to put their old parents in a hospital, but when the standard of living in society increased, the more unpleasant jobs were given to other people outside the family.
So here is where everything started, I have for some time now wondered why it’s so hard to talk about death? It’s painful and the lost ones will always be missed, but people really need to be able to talk about it in an more open way. We are all going to die one day and that we all know. I have just looked at Sweden in this project and in Sweden this is one of our last taboos.
I didn’t want to do just another cancer story, I wanted it to deal with the last period in life just before people die and capture their thoughts in these last days.”
See more of Martin’s work on the Moments website.