The last wishes of the dying often have one thing in common. They revolve around the simple pleasures in life. Palliative care nurses at the Royal Stoke University Hospital in England say that many of the people who stay at their facility make easy, uncomplicated requests from their deathbeds. In fact, many of them would rather have a cup of their favorite Earl Grey than check off one last thing on their bucket lists.
Nurses at the palliative care facility found that most of the people they care for just want to feel comfortable and supported in the days or weeks leading up to their deaths. Some want to visit with their beloved dogs, while others want to be located as close to their loved ones as possible. Although the last wishes of the dying are unique to every person, many revolve around enjoying simple creature comforts such as food, music, atmosphere and a comfortable bed.
Nurse Angela Beeson remembers one elderly couple who wanted their beds moved together so that they could spend their final moments with one another. Beeson says they spent their final days holding hands and singing “Slow Boat to China.” The couple died within 10 days of each other.
Stories like this teach us two things about the dying process. First, people who are terminally ill often know that they are dying days or weeks before they take their last breaths. Nurses at the facility say that many of their patients know instinctively how much time they have left, and they begin making those final preparations both mentally and physically. Second, by and large, comfort and simple pleasures are among the top priorities of the dying. As long as these basic needs are met, many patients feel calm and even blissful in the days or hours leading up to their deaths.
Communication is Key
However, not everyone gets to experience this type of serene death. The Independent explains that many people with terminal illnesses spend their final moments in the chaos of a hospital setting, rather than dying peacefully at home or in a palliative care facility. The reasons for this are complex. Sometimes the dying and their families delay asking for palliative care because a disease progresses more quickly than expected. At other times, families lack appropriate support from social services and information about palliative care.
To fix this problem, some cabinet ministers in England are seeking to expand social services benefits to cover more people who have terminal illnesses. Additionally, healthcare professionals are beginning to communicate more effectively with patients, helping them draft detailed wills and define goals for the future.
Having a plan in place can make it possible to fulfill the last wishes of the dying more easily. Many of these wishes are simple and easy to provide. Often, palliative care nurses and even family members can help with these requests from the comfort of someone’s home or a hospice facility. As a result, more people living with terminal illnesses may have a comfortable place to spend their final days and a less stressful and even beautiful death.