- Cancer Information
- Advanced cancer
- Facing end of life
- Caring for someone nearing the end of life
- Providing physical support
- How you can help in the final stages
How you can help in the final stages
Wherever someone chooses to die, family and friends can help in the final stages. If you are providing care at home, ask the palliative care team how you can help. In a palliative care unit, hospital or residential aged care facility, ask the staff how you can be involved.
Offer comfortApply lip balm to dry lips, and keep the mouth moist with ice cubes or moist mouth swabs. Put incontinence sheets or pads under the bedsheets. Use a vaporiser in the room to help with breathing. Keep the person warm with a blanket and use cushions to make them more comfortable. Help the person change positions frequently. A nurse or occupational therapist can show you suitable positions.
Be a gentle presenceSit with the person and talk or hold their hand. Often just being there is all that is needed so that they don’t feel alone. Gently massage their hands or feet with a non-alcohol-based lotion. Speak gently, and occasionally remind the person of the time, place and who is with them. Don’t force-feed even though you may be distressed by their loss of interest in eating.
Create a calm atmosphereUse soft lighting. Have their favourite music playing in the background to create a gentle and peaceful atmosphere. Quietly read a favourite poem, passage from a book, or spiritual or religious text.
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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