1. What is a hospice?
A hospice is a specifically designed facility and service where a community of dedicated palliative care professionals and carers provide support and care to people who have life-limiting conditions and their families. Services will typically include care at the end of life, scheduled and emergency short break stays and family bereavement support.
2. What is palliative care?
Palliative care at Hopewell Hospice is person and family-centred care provided to a person who does not have prospect of a medical cure and who has an active, progressive, advanced disease and have made the decision along with their physicians and families to embrace the comfort and quality provided by end of life care.
We provide coordinated medical, nursing and allied services for people who are terminally ill. We cover the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual support for residents and for residents’ families and friends. This includes grief and bereavement support for the family and other carers during the life of the resident and after the resident’s death.
3. What are some of the physical aspects of dying?
- Sleep – As the end of life approaches, the dying person will gradually spend more and more time sleeping. The person may become increasingly confused about time, where they are and the identity of family and friends who are normally familiar to them.
- Nutrition – There will probably be a decreased need for food and drink. This is the wisdom of the body, which knows exactly what it needs. In the last stages of dying, forcing food or fluids when the body says “no” may cause the dying person acute discomfort and should be avoided.
- Circulation – As a result of blood circulation slowing down, the limbs of the body may become cool to the touch and darker in colour.
- Breathing – As the person’s cough or swallowing reflex diminishes, saliva and mucus may increase and collect in the back of the throat. This can cause noisy breathing, which may be distressing for loved ones even though it is not causing distress to the resident. Talk to our staff about this, as there are medications and procedures which can sometimes assist. Breathing patterns may eventually become irregular, with 10 seconds to several minutes where no breathing occurs.
- Hearing and touch – Never assume that the person can’t hear you. Hearing and touch are the last senses to be lost, even if the dying person is not lucid or is in a coma.
4. What can I do to help?
- Do not give liquids or food unless requested
- Wet the lips and mouth with a small amount of water, ice chips or a spray bottle
- Protect lips from dryness with a protective lip balm
- Always speak gently and identify yourself before speaking
- Use gentle, reassuring touch
- Be comfortable with silence and remember you are supporting the person to ‘let go’
- Never speak about the dying person as if they are not in the room
- Let relatives and close friends know what is happening
- Discuss memories and life events.