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, they know you and they 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, your carers, family or friends can bring in familiar items from home, such as a favourite blanket or photos.
Learn more about:
- Experienced medical and nursing staff are available at short notice to manage physical symptoms (e.g. pain, fatigue, breathlessness, delirium) and emotional needs (e.g. anxiety, agitation).
- Able to make organ donation. For more details, see Donating organs and donatelife.gov.au.
- Carers can leave at the end of the day and go home to get some rest. But some carers may find leaving you to go home difficult.
- Provides 24-hour care.
- Some families prefer not to live in a house where someone has died.
Decisions about your care may be made without your input. 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 preferences. 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 an advance care directive before an emergency occurs. It is a good idea to keep a copy at home so your carers and your family and friends know your wishes.
The different aspects 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.
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.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.