End of Life Support

If you are caring for someone who is approaching end of life and you need information or advice, our specialist support worker can help

End of life refers to a person approaching the end of their life; end of life care is the term used to describe the support and medical care given at this time.

This type of care is not given only in the moments breathing stops; often people can live with a chronic illness and require significant care for days, weeks and even months before death.

Palliative Care:

When someone has an illness that cannot be cured, palliative care makes that person as comfortable as possible by managing pain and other distressing symptoms.  It involves psychological, spiritual and social support for the person with the illness and their family or Carers’.

Palliative Care is available when it is first learnt the condition is life limiting (terminal) and can be delivered whilst still receiving other therapies for the condition.

 Planning Ahead:

It can be a good idea to make plans when you have a life limiting condition or approaching end of life.  It involves discussing and identifying how the person wishes to be cared for in the last few months of life.  Usually, people carry out advance planning because their condition is expected to get worse, which may prevent them from communicating their decisions in the future.  Anyone can plan for their future care, whether approaching the ned of life or not.  Planning ahead ensures wishes and feelings are expressed while they are still able to do so.

You can find more information about Planning Ahead for the End of Life at the following site:  https://www.nhs.uk/Planners/end-of-life-care/Pages/planning-ahead.aspx/

Each person’s journey to death is unique, some have a gradual decline, while others fade quickly.  However, there are some common changes that happen to everyone and can look distressing but are just part of the dying process.  There are things that can be done to make the dying person is as comfortable as they can be.

  • Loss of appetite – When someone is approaching the end of life, it is typical for them to have less appetite as their need for food and drink reduces. There will be weight loss as the body starts to slow down.

What to do – As the Carer you should just let them eat when they are hungry, giving small portions and foods that are easy to eat.  Ice pops are a good way to keep the person hydrated

  • Changes to breathing – as they become less active, their breathing can become shallower with longer pauses between breaths. They may yawn more frequently to draw more oxygen into their body. Abnormal breathing patterns alternating between deep heavy breaths and shallow or even no breaths.  Breathing can become noisy, mucous may be blocking the airways as they are not being cleared.  This can be alarming to family and friends, but unlikely to be painful or distressing for the person.

They may become breathless which can get worse if the person is anxious.  Helping the person feel relaxed and reassured can help.

  • Needing more sleep / Fatigue – it is very normal for the person to start slowing down and needing more sleep. The body’s metabolism is becoming weaker and without metabolic energy a person will sleep more.

What to do – It is best to make them as comfortable as possible and let them sleep.  When they wake and have a bit more energy, it is a good idea to encourage them to get up and move about to prevent bed sores.

  • Skin irritation and itching – this can be an annoying condition as the end of life is approaching. It can cause discomfort, sleep disruption and can have a negative effect on the quality of life.  Not being able to locate properly or satisfy the itch can become frustrating and depressing.

Whilst there are environmental factors causing this irritation, the condition is likely to be a result of a toxin build up in the body, with many diseases that can cause this.

Their extremities will start to feel cold and the skin become mottled blue or patchy.  This is a result of reduced circulation as the body’s functions slow down.

What to do – administer moisturising lotion on the areas that are itching.  Avoid scented soaps to prevent further irritation.  Wear loose, non-irritating clothing, in a cool humidified environment.  Skin should be dried properly, and any perfumed products avoided.

  • Pain – As someone approaches the end of life, the pain may increase. It is usual to see someone with a pained expression, or to hear noises reflecting the pain they are experiencing, which is never easy.

What to do – Speak to the GP about pain medication options.  The Doctor should make the person who is dying as comfortable as possible.

We run monthly peer support groups for Carers. Click the button below for more info.