Practical help

Staff who are involved can help you. They have a responsibility to help in lots of different ways, and you should feel able to approach them if you are at all concerned.

  • Contact your GP or use the telephone number you have been given by your health care team. Try to find out which services are available during the night in your area.
  • You may be entitled to some financial support. If this would help, you should enquire at your local Citizens' Advice Bureau or ask the staff where the person is being cared for.
  • Carers' organisations (which are available locally in most towns) are a useful source of information.
  • Practical help in caring, such as advice on how to move a person or how to give medication or injections, is really important to help your confidence to care. District nurses or palliative nurses can train you in these tasks.
  • It might be difficult for the person to get out of bed or stand up, so they might need equipment that will make it more comfortable and safe. There are supplies of equipment such as adjustable beds, commodes or incontinence aids that can be made available urgently - district nurses and hospice teams can advise on these.
  • Talk to an occupational therapist about what equipment the person needs. A physiotherapist or occupational therapist can also help with the person's breathing.

You do not need to face your concerns alone

You should expect the staff to ask you about your needs and those of the dying person, and to do their best to get you the care and support to meet those needs, or direct you to other people or organisations that can help.

The way care is provided at evenings, weekends and on Bank Holidays varies depending on the area where you live. For example, support and care services might include a 24-hour telephone helpline or night-stitting service.

In particular, it's helpful to know what number you should ring, and what information you should be ready to provide over the phone - for example:

  • What stage the person is at in their illness (or what you have been told about this);
  • What medication they have recently taken;
  • When they were last seen by a doctor or nurse;
  • Whether they are known to the local hospice service;
  • Whether they have an advance care plan and had made prior decisions about treatment, or future admission to hospital.
Where the 'doctor' is referenced here, this means the doctor looking after the person if they are in a hospice or hospital, or the person's GP if they are at home (including care homes).

What does hospice care mean to you?