Practicalities to think about when someone is dying
The suggestions below are aimed at relatives and carers of people who are dying in a hospice, nursing home or hospital.
If someone is dying at home, the experience will be different to that of dying in an institution. As a carer, you are more in control of what is happening to your relative and for taking care of your own comforts too.
You will have the support of community palliative care nurses (who may also be called hospice community nurses or Macmillan Nurses). These are clinical nurse specialists, skilled in pain and symptom control. They can provide emotional support and practical advice to patients and their families. They do not usually provide hands-on care, but give advice to the primary healthcare team. They can also link with the hospital or hospice. District and other community nurses provide hands-on nursing care and practical advice in the home. They can usually be contacted through a GP’s surgery or directly at their office.
Coping mechanisms when someone is dying
- First of all, prepare to put your normal life on hold. When someone is dying you will probably find it impossible to do or to think of anything else apart from being with them or preparing for their death. And when you are not with them, you will be on red alert every time the telephone goes.
- You may feel as if you are walking around in a bubble, unable to relate to ‘normal’ life. Everyday conversations may seem trivial and irrelevant. You may find loud places like supermarkets or restaurants intolerable.
- Explain clearly to your children and other family members what you are going through. Additional stresses and strains can feel hard to bear. Tempers can easily fray.
- Get someone to stock-up the fridge and cupboards with ready-made meals and soups. You probably won’t feel like cooking when you come home. But do make sure you have something hot and nourishing to eat every day - you need your health and strength.
- Tell friends what is happening. People are often amazing in situations like this and very happy to provide support and help.
- Some dying people may want to see friends and extended family, but others may not. This can change from day to day. Always check with them before inviting people to visit. Nearer the end, it may be okay to offer people the opportunity to come and say their farewells. Some will gladly do this. Others may not, preferring to remember the dying person as they were. Try not to take this personally.
- Make sure you have plenty of credit for your mobile, and remember to charge it regularly. You will find yourself making and taking lots of calls from family and friends. In a hospital, this usually has to be done in an echoing corridor with trolleys and people clattering by.
- Hospitals generally charge for parking, so make sure you have plenty of change for the car park. Some machines only take coins. Some hospitals offer discounts for people who need to come in regularly or for extended periods of time. Ask at the hospital information desk about this.
- Be very careful when you drive as you may well be preoccupied with what’s going on.
- Understanding death and dying
- Signs that death is near
- At the bedside
- Coping with family dynamics when someone is dying
- Further information and support
This content has been funded by Macmillan Cancer Support. It was commissioned as part of Find Me Help, Dying Matters' new online search tool which gives access to a comprehensive database of national and local organisations providing support and advice for people coping with death, dying and bereavement.