Supporting someone to have a good death

Posted: 26 October 2021

Although death is a difficult subject, team leader, Nicola, explains how you can best support someone who is at the end of their life.

Two hands holding a candle

In this article:

  • About Gavin
  • Slow deterioration
  • Gavin's forever home
  • Dignity and respect
  • "Wonderful care"
  • Join our team

About Gavin

Gavin had been living in Honiton in Devon, since 1999. Brandon Trust started supporting him in 2011.

Gavin lived with John, and they had known each other since they were young men. Over the years, Gavin’s team of staff supported him with his declining health, alongside his family who were fully involved in his support.

Gavin was a complex individual with high support needs but once you got to know him, he had the cheekiest smile, and a fun sense of humour. Staff always looked forward to their next shift with him and visiting professionals often commented on Gavin’s cheeky smile and infectious chuckles.

In April 2021, Gavin began coughing more when he was eating. We made a referral to the Speech and Language Therapy (SALT) team, for advice and support. After several assessments, it was felt that an intervention such as PEG feeding, maybe required. However, after a best interests meeting this was felt to not be appropriate and with support from the learning disability team, we started risk feeding.

Slow deterioration

Over the next five weeks, things became even more difficult for Gavin. It was hard for everyone involved, not only seeing Gavin deteriorate, but also not being able to ensure he was eating and drinking well, knowing he was declining and was not going to get better.

We had lots of conversations about how we could make things better. But sometimes you need to recognise when a person is slowly withdrawing and drifting away, and you need to allow that and respect it. Our hearts and minds were always focussed on trying to ensure he was as comfortable as possible.

Gavin’s forever home

The hospice team and community nurses were heavily involved in the last few weeks of Gavin’s life and supported his team and family to care for Gavin at home. This was one of the most important things for his family, as they considered it his forever home.

Death is a difficult subject to talk about and it is one that although inevitable, is hard to openly talk through. We had a specific protocol for staff to follow, which really helped that day. Although things were in place, helping and supporting someone in their last moments is one of the most challenging things.

Dignity and respect

On the day Gavin died, he was supported by Suzie who had been supporting him for 17 years. He was in bed with Suzie by his side all day, with his favourite classical music playing on his iPad. During the morning, Gavin’s breathing changed and his family came in to say goodbye.

The team who supported Gavin in his final moments, cared for him with dignity and respect. I am proud of the whole team – they were fantastic and did everything they could to make Gavin as comfortable as possible. They also supported each other. When Gavin passed away, he was comfortable and at peace.

“Wonderful care”

Sophie Beecroft, the community nurse with the hospice team, sent us a lovely letter of support.

“I would just like to write to you to congratulate your team on the high level of end-of-life care delivered to one of our patients in your home. Me and my team were very impressed at the level of care that he received the entire time.

“This was delivered with empathy and dignity maintained at all times. It really was a difficult and challenging time for all your carers, and I was most impressed with the way they all handled it and maintained wonderful care to the other resident in the house at the same time.

“He died peacefully and in his own home where he was comfortable, and this was entirely down to your team, so well done to all.”

Nicola Harper
Team Leader

Join our team

If, like Gavin’s team, you have empathy and compassion, you could make a fantastic care worker. We have lots of support positions available. Find out more about working with us and browse our current vacancies by visiting our jobs section.

Get in touch

Speak to our friendly team to find out more about our support services, jobs, fundraising and volunteering opportunities and how we can support your organisation.

Sign up to our newsletter

Keep up to date with the latest from Brandon Trust through our quarterly newsletter.