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End of life practicalities

It can be very difficult to think about your own needs when a friend or family member is nearing the end of their life. But getting help with things like meals and shopping, and asking people for support, can make it easier to cope.

The suggestions below are aimed at relatives and friends of people who are being cared for in a hospice, nursing home or hospital.  

  • First of all, prepare to put your normal life on hold. You’ll probably find it impossible to do or think of anything else apart from being with your relative or friend. When you’re not with them, you may be anxious every time the telephone goes.

  • Tell friends what’s happening. People are often amazing in situations like this and very happy to provide support and help. By helping you, friends often feel more involved and less helpless.

  • You might want to ask someone to update family and friends with news on your behalf. You can also give people set ways and times to get in touch with you. This will help stop constant phone calls, which can add to any stress you might be feeling.

  • Ask 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.

  • If you have children, ask friends for help with childcare arrangements, whether it’s collecting them from school or even having them to stay for dinner or overnight.

  • Tell your manager at work as you may need to request time off work. If there are problems at work you can ask the palliative care team or your GP for advice.

  • Some people nearing the end of their life 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 person as they were. Try not to take this personally.

  • Make sure you have plenty of credit for your mobile phone if you’re not on a contract, and remember to charge it regularly. You’ll find yourself making and taking lots of calls from family and friends. You might want to ask another member of the family or a close friend to update anyone who has left messages asking for information. Repeating all the news several times at the end of a long and emotional day can be very draining.

  • 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 or free parking for people who need to come in regularly or for extended periods of time, and for people who are undergoing cancer treatment. Ask at the hospital information desk about this, or the nurse in charge.

  • Be very careful when you drive as you may be preoccupied with what’s going on.

This is a very difficult time and planning for the practicalities can help you feel a bit more in control. If you’re finding it hard to cope, speak to the team at the hospice or hospital.

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