- Cancer Information
- Advanced cancer
- Facing end of life
- Caring for someone nearing the end of life
- Providing emotional support
- Keeping a vigil
Keeping a vigil
For many people, being with the dying person is a way to show support and love. This is called keeping a vigil. The person may be sedated or unconscious at this time.
- You can simply sit with them, perhaps holding hands.
- Hearing is said to be the last sense to go, so you may want to talk, read aloud, sing or play music.
- Your cultural or spiritual traditions may require someone to be present, and this may also be the time to perform any rituals.
Some people find keeping a vigil exhausting and draining, and it can be hard to estimate how long it will last. Plan to take breaks or organise shifts with other family members and friends. You may worry that leaving the room could mean missing the moment of death. If this happens, it may be reassuring to know that sometimes a person seems to wait to be alone before they die.
Dr Megan Ritchie, Staff Specialist Palliative Medicine, Palliative Care Service, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, NSW; Gabrielle Asprey, Cancer Support Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Rosemary Cavanough, Consumer; Louise Durham, Nurse Practitioner, Metro South Palliative Care Service, QLD; Tracey Gardner, Senior Psychologist, Cancer Counselling Service, Cancer Council Queensland; Karen Hall, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Linda Nolte, Program Director, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC; Rowena Robinson, Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia, ACT; Helena Rodi, Program Manager, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC.
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