Susan Callaghan, Healthcare Assistant at Wigan and Leigh Hospice inpatient unit

Many people worry about not being there right at the end but I tell them it’s OK – you’ve been there when they’ve needed you.

Those last few days and weeks of someone’s life can be scary, they can be sad but there can also be moments of joy. That time will stay with the person’s loved ones forever. Those last days and weeks are so precious and they are a chance to make good lasting memories.

At the hospice on the inpatient unit we often care for patients whose families have been caring for them for a long time at home. When they’re here it’s time for them to stop being a carer and return to being their family member or loved one again.

Laughing together

Being on the inpatient unit should be about spending time with each other, sharing a cup of tea, laughing together. We’ve had families who have had picnics in the garden and a few days later the patient has died but the family has been left with a lovely memory.

Whether at home or in the hospice there are ways to make special memories. We often take handprints from patients to give to loved ones. It might not seem much but it is important – that person you loved has died but is always there now – you can reach out and touch them.

We also place hearts knitted by volunteers with every patient when they die and give hearts to everyone closest to the patient. If you have a heart and know that your mum or dad or nan has one too, it is comforting.


Memory Boxes

Younger patients often choose to make memory boxes. It’s a lovely thing to do at home or in the hospice. You can put anything in; a teddy, favourite perfume, lipstick, photos, anniversary cards or an item they always used to wear. Putting the box together is a wonderful way of starting a conversation about what they’ve done with their life, their achievements and what is important to them. It can help patients deal with what is happening to them and give them peace of mind.

For some people having some final moments with a beloved pet is a lovely way to make lasting good memories. We’ve had horses, parrots and even a monkey in the hospice and the loved ones of those patients will never forget the joy it brought.

However, simply sitting with your loved one and spending time together is everything. Listen to music together, read a story, watch a favourite film, paint their nails.

You came into this life with love and you should end this life surrounded by love.