Dying in Hospital
While a hospital is the place in which most of us will die, a Macmillan Cancer Support survey carried out in 2017 reported that only 1% of cancer patients preferred to die in a hospital. Some professionals have spoken out against dying in hospital without reason, too. Our stance towards dying in hospital changes with the amount of cuts hospitals face and the rise of new hospice facilities. Though, a hospital is the one place where you’ll always find professional help on call. Here’s a look at what to expect when living out your final days in a hospital.
Is it better to die in a hospital?
At a hospital, you can expect the right level of care at the right time. In short, everyone who works at a hospital has a guaranteed level of medical expertise. And, there’s a whole range of these professionals: from doctors, nurses to social workers and pain relief administers. Many people feel safe in a hospital for this reason. If your condition suddenly changes, there’s usually someone quick to hand.
It may be that pain management is much more effective when it’s more readily available at a hospital. Sometimes, it may seem unfair for someone to stay at home where there isn’t anyone to look after them or there’s no service to meet their needs.
End of life care in a hospital
Sometimes, dying at home simply isn’t viable. Outpatient and inpatient hospice care can be valuable to free up the burden on an already strained acute care system, but you might choose to die in hospital after being diagnosed with a terminal illness. When living out your final days in hospital, decisions around your care can still involve you and people close to you.
Many hospitals have specialist palliative care teams, who work alongside and help hospital staff to care for people nearing the end of their life. This can also include robust pain management, which can come in the form of painkillers such as:
- non-opioid painkillers, such as paracetamol
- mild opioids, such as codeine
- strong opioids, such as morphine
In a hospital, symptoms of terminal illness can also be managed by physio and other therapies, such as massages.
Specialist palliative care wards
If your terminal illness is cancer, then there are specialist cancer hospitals which have their own palliative care wards. The staff specialise in:
- caring for people with advanced cancer
- controlling symptoms
- looking after dying people
These wards are often more peaceful than the usual hospital wards, and staff will be able to look after you and your family in the way you would like. You can usually bring in your own duvet, pillows and other personal belongings to make you feel comfortable.
Where is the best place to die?
Certainly in a hospital there’s a less flexible approach to visiting times, meal times or other activities which can help in the dying process. It’s no surprise, though, that hospitals are generally less good at delivering more holistic care (such as talking therapies, social activities and bereavement support) due to cuts and funding issues.
Wherever you end up, whether at home, in a hospice or a hospital, there are services out there to make sure you go out comfortably. Finally, make sure you sort out your preferences beforehand, if you have any, to make sure you die the way you want to. Read our articles on dying at home and the care given to those dying in a hospice.