What’s most important to people at the end of life?

What’s most important to people at the end of life?

Dr. Christine Jones, MD, CCFP-PC

As a palliative care physician, I ask people every day what matters most to them. Their answers are as individual as they are, but there’s one thing everyone has in common.

People who are dying want us to listen – really listen – to what’s most important as they face the end of their life.

Nicole lived only a few months after a devastating diagnosis. What mattered most was being prepared for death – not only for herself, but for her young daughters.

She wrote letters and recorded messages to help her girls find their way without her. She met with the Victoria Hospice child and youth counsellor and felt relieved to know her children would be supported after she was gone. Nicole wanted to stay at home for as long as she could, and our Palliative Response Team made that happen.

For Jordan, who died from cancer in his late teens, what mattered most was preventing his family’s distress about his symptoms. Expert pain management and a portable medication allowed Jordan to create more happy memories with his little brother. Jordan told nurses how much he appreciated being able to go out and not have too much attention drawn to his illness, which had not been his experience for a long time.

“Joe” was registered for hospice care long before he decided to go to the Inpatient Unit. What mattered most to Joe was going to his neighbourhood pub every day for a beer and a bowl of soup. Palliative care at home allowed Joe to maintain the routine he enjoyed so much for as long as possible.

For Rosemary, celebrating a royal wedding mattered. Supported by the Inpatient Unit care team, her family made a party of it, complete with elegant attire, cucumber sandwiches, champagne, and laughter. For Cheryl, what mattered most was enjoying time and special occasions with her family – including a Halloween-in-July celebration on the unit.

Everyone wants to be seen as a person, not a patient. As Nicole, Jordan, Joe, Rosemary and Cheryl’s dying time approached, they weren’t defined by their illness. They received care aligned with what mattered most to them.

Thank you for helping us honour the values and heartfelt wishes of people who are dying. Your donation means so much.