Bereavement

End of life care

Sometimes end of life care is provided by nursing staff to patients in our critical care units.

We understand that preparing for the death of a loved one is difficult and upsetting. Our staff will always do their best to support you and other family members during this difficult time and will try to help make things a little easier for everyone involved.

There are several ways we can support the patient and their family members when their loved one is receiving end of life care, as well as after their death.

The 3 Wishes Project

Medway critical care is currently taking forward The 3 Wishes Project. Developed in the USA, the end of life program aims to enhance the dignity of a dying patient by helping them and their family members make meaningful memories with the overall goal of improving the quality of the dying experience for both the patient and their family. By asking about and carrying out at least three final simple wishes for dying patients, the project is designed to celebrate the patient’s life and support those who are left behind as they deal with their grief. Our nursing staff will always do their very best to accommodate either the patient or their family member’s wishes so please feel free to ask.

Part of The 3 Wishes Project is to develop a critical care garden for patients to visit. We have been working hard within critical care to achieve this and are currently seeking a suitable space within the hospital grounds to develop the garden. In the meantime, our nursing staff are still able to take your loved one outside for some fresh air if this is something that they would like and if it is appropriate to do so. Click to find out more about The 3 Wishes Project.

Namaste care practitioner

Namaste care was developed by Joyce Simard in the USA. It uses a holistic approach to caring for patients who ae receiving end of life care, by focusing on the person rather than the process and protocol.

Emily Brown, the Trust’s Namaste Care Practitioner, is available by referral to the End of Life Team. If this is something you would like for your loved one then please speak to the nursing staff. You can find out more about the service on our website here.

Music

It’s important that your loved one is as comfortable as possible while they are on our critical care unit. If there is any music that they particularly like to listen to, or background noise, then please speak to the nursing staff so they can help facilitate this.

Remembering your loved one once they are gone

When a loved one dies, there will be many things you remember about them. But as time passes you may find it hard to recall some of those memories. To help you hold on to your memories you might like to consider some of the following items that are available through the critical care unit’s nursing staff:

Blankets - the unit has been donated some beautiful keepsakes to give to dying patients and their families. These can help to create a peaceful environment and help to make positive memories with loved ones during a difficult time. The keepsakes include blankets, generously made and donated by the local community and staff members, which are used by the patient during their final days and can be taken home by their family to keep. Some families have the blankets made in to a cushion at a later date.

Friendship bracelets - matching friendship bracelets and knitted hearts can be offered to the patient and their family members to help them feel a little closer and connected even after death.

Handprints and moulds – nursing staff can take a print of your loved one’s hand and photocopy it so it can be given to other family members. Hand moulds, which may be offered if it is appropriate to do so, make a lovely keepsake to remember your loved one by.

Lock of hair - our nursing staff can help to provide you with a lock of your loved one’s hair.

Memory boxes - memory boxes can be provided but please note they are limited and not guaranteed as they are provided by bereavement charities who rely on funding to be able to provide the unit with them. Memory boxes can be used to store the keepsakes mentioned above in. You may also wish to think about putting other personal belongings in the memory box such as a watch, tie, perfume, letters and photographs or a favourite lipstick, passport or concert tickets, even their favourite book.

Bereavement follow-up calls

Following a patient’s death a member of the critical care senior nursing team will aim to call the patient’s next of kin within the first two weeks. The phone call is to offer our condolences and to ask how they are following their loved one’s passing and to provide further information, answer any questions, or help to put them in contact with any support groups and counselling should they need it.

Bereavement meetings

If you have any questions regarding your loved one’s care in critical care, their treatment, or do not completely understand what happened to them, our nursing staff are more than happy to arrange a consultation with one of our critical care consultants to discuss your worries. Please contact the unit to speak to the nursing staff to arrange this.

Supporting children

Books - within critical care we are fortunate to be able to offer books to support children in bereavement and grief. The books, which are bought from the unit’s charity funds and have been recommended by child bereavement charities/counsellors, aim to help children to understand what has happened and what happens after their loved one has passed away. We can support you with making memories and offering keepsakes such as those mentioned above to support children when their loved one dies.

Charities and free resources - Winston’s Wish is a charity dedicated to bereaved children which offers helpful advice, tips, and activities to support children through a bereavement.

Cruise is a registered charity that offers advice and support for children experiencing grief following a bereavement. 

The department of Psychiatry (2023) have some free resources and a step by step guide for families on how to tell children that someone has died.

Should your child/ren require further support please don’t hesitate to speak to our nursing staff, a bereavement charity or your GP for further advice.

Hospital chaplin/spiritual and pastoral care

We respect and support the spiritual and religious needs of patients and their families. The Trust’s chaplaincy and spiritual care department can offer care in bereavement, end of life issues, facing distressing news, care of the dying and their relatives and the effects of sudden death among many others. Where appropriate the team can provide prayers and certain religious acts, and in an urgent situations they can help to call in a faith leader from a variety of faiths and signpost to similar support in the community. At the patient’s request, or at the request of friends and family, we can contact the hospital chaplin to attend the unit to see you and your loved one. To do so, please speak to a member of the nursing team.

Counselling

Within critical care we have a counsellor who can support patients and staff. However, if you feel you are not coping well, or you are feeling overwhelmed, please speak to our nursing team who will be more than happy to make a referral to the counsellor if you feel it would help you. Please note, there is a waiting list at present but our counsellor will able to provide you with information about further support that is available. You can also speak to your GP about referring you for counselling/further support.

If you have any questions, or anything you would like to discuss, please do not hesitate to contact the critical care unit’s nursing team on 01634 974980.