In your own home
If asked, many people say they want to die at home. This may be because they want to be around familiar surroundings and people.
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While this option is not for everyone, if you do want to be at home, support is available. This may vary from a few hours a week to a few hours a day to 24-hour care (although 24-hour care is very expensive). Your GP, nurse, palliative care specialist or palliative care nurse practitioner can suggest services to manage symptoms such as pain or breathlessness. They can also teach carers how to assist with day-to-day activities such as bathing and eating. Even if you live alone, with planning, you can stay as long as possible in your own home.
Some carers may find having you nearby easier. It may mean that they don’t have to travel, or fit in with a hospital or palliative care routine. Caring for someone who is dying at home can be a meaningful experience, but it can also be challenging.
For more on this, see Caring for someone nearing the end of life.
Sometimes people go into a palliative care unit or hospital to have symptoms managed or to give their carers a break (respite), and then return home. Or they may decide it’s not possible to stay at home, even with home help, and that they would be more comfortable in a palliative care unit or hospital.
You can decide at any stage to change your mind about staying at home and explore other options. If you are planning to stay at home until the end, talk to your GP or palliative care team about ways of dealing with unexpected medical events.
- Being cared for in a familiar environment, surrounded by people you know, may help your emotional wellbeing.
- You can spend more time with family and friends, as there are no visiting hours.
- Depending on your situation and preferences, your family and friends can be at your side at all times.
- Being at home may offer more flexibility to maximise your quality of life.
- It may feel more natural and less clinical, while still giving you access to expert medical advice and symptom control.
- It allows you a sense of control over the last part of your life.
- Your family and friends may find comfort in providing most of your care.
- A range of services can give you and your carers help and support. Keep a list of phone numbers handy for when you need advice and support.
- After death, family and friends can grieve at their own pace and decide when to call the ambulance or funeral home.
Podcast: End-of-Life Care at Home
Prof Jane Phillips, Head, School of Nursing and Professor, Centre for Healthcare Transformation, Queensland University of Technology and Emerita Professor Palliative Nursing, University of Technology Sydney, NSW; Prof Meera Agar, Palliative Care Physician, Professor of Palliative Medicine, University of Technology Sydney, IMPACCT, Sydney, NSW; Sandra Anderson, Consumer; A/Prof Megan Best, The University of Notre Dame Australia and The University of Sydney, NSW; Prof Lauren Breen, Psychologist and Discipline Lead, Psychology, Curtin University, WA; David Dawes, Manager, Spiritual Care Department, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Rob Ferguson, Consumer; Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar, Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Social Worker, One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy, NSW; Justine Hatton, Senior Social Worker, Southern Adelaide Palliative Services, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Caitlin MacDonagh, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Palliative Care, Royal North Shore Hospital, Northern Sydney Local Health District, NSW; McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer; Palliative Care Australia; Belinda Reinhold, Acting Lead Palliative Care, Cancer Council QLD; Xanthe Sansome, National Program Director, Advance Care Planning Australia; Kirsty Trebilcock, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA.
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