Share Your Story
Hearing about others' experiences can be helpful when dealing with death and bereavement. Do you have a personal experience that you'd feel comfortable sharing with the campaign? If so, let us know...
My father died at the beginning of the year. He was almost 96, was ready to go and we had accepted that. In the past year he’d had five falls; on Boxing Day he fell again and broke his shoulder – I could feel the crepitus.
By the time we arrived in A&E, he was coming to the decision that enough was enough – he’d lost his fiercely cherished independence, and even if he recovered, something similar was bound to happen again soon. The A&E SHO told us curtly that all he needed was a collar and cuff, so “You can go home now”. We said “To what?” Widowed two years ago, he lived on his own in Cambridge, and even with us we’d need help of some kind. So he put into action the plan he and I had discussed before – he stopped all food, drink and medication.
So he remained in hospital – in an ‘extra’ bed. For the first few days he looked better and was calmer than he had been for ages; he was at peace with himself. The hospital staff kept trying to ‘save’ him – the doctors had plans to make him better, the nurses offered him food & drink every meal time, but he politely rebuffed them all. Family and some friends were able to come and say their goodbyes. The ward staff gradually came to accept the situation.
Eventually we persuaded him to come home to us, with support. The local hospice organised a hospital bed, a package of drugs, and a District Nurse. His discharge was planned for 5pm on Friday; because he was likely to die over the weekend, and mindful of the requirements for certification of death, I arranged for our GP, David, to call in at the end of the day. 5pm came and went; at 6.30 David rang; I said “No sign of him yet; go home.” He eventually arrived at 8.30, and shared a sip of champagne!
He died on Saturday evening, at 9.30. He had become unconscious during the day; as his breathing became more laboured I administered a number of doses of Morphine & Midazolam. I contemplated calling the hospice for the help they’d offered, but decided I really didn’t need to. Ultimately his death was peaceful. I called the out-of-hours service. They were very busy; the living take priority over the dead. We went to bed, exhausted. The doctor finally called at 1.30am, looked in his eyes, listened to his chest (in a stiffening body) and confirmed death. We rang the undertakers, who were there in half an hour….
Getting the death certificate signed on Monday by the hospital doctors was a task in itself – their system just didn’t cater for that kind of thing. They managed it in the end, though not before the doctor signing the second part of the Cremation form rang me, thinking that I had signed the first part!
What lessons can we learn from this experience of medicine from the other end? Is this how things should be at the end of a life? Let’s have a debate on this…
Discuss this in our forum: www.dyingmatters.org/forum/how-things-should-be-end-life
The Dying Matters Coalition is led by the National Council for Palliative Care,
the umbrella charity for end of life care in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Freephone 08000 21 44 66