End of life care
End of life care (EOLC) is support for people who are approaching death. It helps them to live as well as possible until they die, and to die with dignity. It also includes support for their family or carers.
We believe that care at the end of a person’s life is vitally important and know that there is only one chance to get it right. That is why end of life care is a priority for us.
NHS Southampton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), in collaboration with our neighbouring CCGs, the Countess Mountbatten House Hospice, our GPs, community nurses, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and other local health and social care providers, are committed to improving end of life care for the local people we serve.
Advance care planning
End of life care includes palliative care (see below), but starts earlier. If you have a terminal illness, or are approaching the end of your life, it may be a good idea to make plans in advance for the future of your care. Planning ahead in this way is sometimes called advance care planning. It involves thinking and talking about your wishes for how you are cared for in the final months of your life.
People usually carry out advance care planning because they have a condition that is expected to get worse, which may mean they will not be able to make decisions, or communicate their decisions in the future. However, anyone can plan for their future care, whether they are approaching the end of life, or not. Advance care planning can help you let people know your wishes and feelings while you still can. Your wishes and preferences can then be shared with your family, carers, GP and others as appropriate. For more information about advance care planning talk to your GP.
Palliative care helps to make you as comfortable as possible by relieving pain and other distressing symptoms, while providing psychological, social and spiritual support for you and your family or carers. This is called a holistic approach to care, as it deals with the ‘whole’ person rather than just one aspect of their care.
Talking about death doesn't bring death closer. It's about planning for life. Without communication and understanding, death and terminal illness can be a lonely and stressful experience; both for the person who is dying and for their friends and family. There may be practical matters as well as care issues. Though hard to start these conversations, most people find it a great relief once it’s brought up.
It has been said that what we fear most about dying is the associated loss of control. By empowering people to express their wishes, that control can be restored.
Your GP is a good place to start if you want to discuss end of life, but you can also find lots of helpful information online:
- Countess Mountbatten House - our local Hospice.
- Macmillan Cancer Support - advice and support for end of life.
- Dying Matters - general information about preparing for a good death for the public and professionals.
- Say it Once - a Hampshire carers site where you can read about and download an easy to use Advance Care Plan.
- Terminal illness support from Marie Curie - At some stage all of us will have to face the fact that we (or our loved ones) have a life limiting condition and are coming towards the end of our lives.
- The NHS website - general information about end of life care and advice on talking about death.
- Advanced decision to refuse treatment/Living wills - explains about these legal documents.
- Palliative and end of life care - a factsheet from Marie Curie.
- Butterflies Bereavement Centre - bereavement support with a dedicated helpline.
End of life and bereavement support
We have produced a list of contacts for end of life and bereavement support.
We are keen to know more about your opinions on this subject and ideas you have that may help us improve end of life care – please do get in touch.