HospiceCare: Easing the pain of losing a loved one

As part our ongoing commitment to encourage people to talk openly about death and dying I wanted to share my recent conversation with two of our Hospice at Home nursing assistants, Cath Miller and Cath McEwan.

By Julie Frost
Sunday, 7th July 2019, 3:30 pm

Q: What happens on your first visit to a person’s home? “Ahead of meeting any families and patients we have a hand-over meeting from one of the trained nurses at the hospice. When we first meet the family they are often apprehensive and anxious about our visit. We’re aware that it’s such a difficult time for the families and probably feels strange to let nurses into their home to care for their loved ones. However, people soon seem to relax.”

Q: Do you meet the person and their families together? “It depends, sometimes when we arrive for the first time we speak with the family and then meet the person and sometimes, we meet the person and their families together.”

Q: Who decides what happens when you are caring for someone in their home? “The care and support we offer is tailored to suit the needs of the person and their family. These needs can change as the person’s condition deteriorates, so it’s very much about having ongoing conversations to ensure the needs of the person and their families are being met. We know that we are able to make a real difference by helping a family fulfil their wishes to have their loved one home to die surrounded by the people who are important to them and in many cases, this also includes the family pet.”

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Q: What sort of questions do you get asked? “We often get asked ‘How will I know when the end is near?’ or ‘I feel scared of what I might see when my loved one dies?’ ‘Will my loved one be in pain when they die?’ Part of our care is to talk through any fears that either the person or their families may have about death. 

Q: Do you know when someone is going to die? “There are physical signs and symptoms that we recognise. We can pick up on the smallest change in a patient’s condition and we always try to let the families know the end is close so they can be there to say goodbye.”

Q: How else do you support a person and their family? “We encourage people to discuss their wishes and  to make a care plan to ensure we are able to fulfil any wishes they may have at the end. We also offer pre-bereavement support. 

Q: Does your work make you feel sad? “We always feel connected to the families and it might seem an odd word to use but we are ‘happy’ that a person can die in a place of their choice. Caring for someone in their own home is a special time and with our nursing experience we can put the family at ease knowing their loved one is being looked after like they are a member of our own family. We are very lucky to have this service in North Northumberland.” 

You can access Hospice at Home care via self-referral, call 01665 606515 or email: [email protected]