Dying in hospital

Even when death is expected, more people approaching the end of life die in hospital than anywhere else. While some people feel more secure being near health professionals, others feel anxious about hospital care, believing it will be too impersonal.

If you have spent a lot of time in hospital during your illness, you may want to stay on the same ward where you are familiar with staff and surroundings, and they know you and understand your specific needs. You’ll need to check if this is possible – sometimes people are moved to a different ward as their medical needs change.

To help create a more homely environment, ask if you or your carers can bring in familiar items from home, such as a favourite blanket or photos.

Hospital: what are the benefits?

  • Experienced medical and nursing staff are available at short notice to manage physical symptoms (e.g. pain, fatigue, breathlessness) and emotional needs (e.g. anxiety,
    delirium, agitation).
  • Carers can leave at the end of the day and go home to get some rest.
  • 24-hour care.
  • Some families prefer not to live in a house where someone has died.

Ensuring your wishes are respected

Hospitals sometimes provide medical interventions, such as resuscitation and intravenous lines, that may not be what you want in the final weeks or days of life. Your health care team should work with you to make sure your care plan matches your wishes. If you are concerned, talk to the hospital staff and request that you don’t receive such interventions.

You can arrange to have your wishes recorded in a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order or other document before an emergency occurs.

The quality of end-of-life care in a hospital can be managed with communication and advance care planning. Preparing an advance care directive can help give you control over the type of medical treatment you receive. 

This information was last reviewed in January 2017
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