Terminally ill patients can often predict when they are going to die, and have been known to say they’ve had a glimpse of heaven while on their death beds, according to nurses who care for them.
Macmillan palliative care nurses at Royal Stoke University Hospital, who see patients die on a routine basis, have opened up about what patients tend to do and say in the hours, days and weeks before they pass.
Many have basic dying wishes such as seeing their dogs, or having a glass of their favourite drink or a cup of tea, while others talk openly about their impending death, and are sometimes able to predict when it will happen, according to the nurses.
Nicki Morgan, one of the palliative carers, told the BBC: “We’ve had people say: ‘I’m 80 in a couple of weeks and I’ll have my 80th birthday, I’ll have my party, and then I’ll go’. And very strangely we do see that that happens.”
Another nurse, Louise Massey, said: “A patient many years ago who was dying and they were semi-conscious and they actually said they were happy to die because they’d had a glimpse of heaven and it was wonderful and they weren’t frightened to die.”
When asked what patients’ dying wishes are, the nurses said they often ask to have their dogs come in to see them. “To experience the joy on somebody’s face when they’re dying and their dog’s been in to see them is priceless,” added Ms Massey.
In other cases people ask for their favourite tipple, while some say they just want a cup of tea, according to the nurses.
Sometimes patients just want to be near relatives. In one case, an terminally ill elderly lady and her husband, who had also become acutely unwell, requested that they wanted their beds together.
“They just lay side by side holding hands. And they were singing ‘Slow Boat to China’ together, and they both died on that ward within 10 days of each other,” nurse Angela Beeson explained.
She added: “Working in this environment makes me absolutely not afraid of death at all and I openly talk about death with my family. And I think advanced care planning is something that we need to all be thinking about.”
It comes after it emerged in a study earlier this month that thousands of terminally ill patients risk dying in hospital when they could be at home because of “unacceptable” delays accessing urgent care support and funding.
The report by end-of-life nursing charity Marie Curie estimated that 57,000 patients who are terminally ill, or progressing to a terminal stage of their illness, are not receiving timely home terminal-care support.
It found that 25,000 patients waited longer than a week to receive home terminal-care support, and that there are “no second chances” for patients who are not granted their wish to die at home.