Helping cancer patients to die at home

Categories: Care.

She is part of the team of nurses who work for the Irish Cancer Society, providing end-of-life care for patients and their families at home.

The night nurses care for patients through the night, providing medical care and expertise as well as comfort and reassurance to the patient and their family.

Many patients would not be able to stay at home if it were not for the night nurses – who give the carers some time to rest with some peace of mind, knowing that their loved one is not in any pain and that they can be called upon if anything changes.

Mum-of-one Mary (48) generally works between the hours of 11pm and 7am, with some flexibility to suit families, in the wider Dublin area.

“The purpose of my role is to support those who wish to be cared for at home,” she said.

Generally they are patients with cancer that may be in the terminal phase, while some are respite cases.

She would also care for patients with other chronic illnesses that are in the terminal phase.


Mary works in tandem with the community palliative care team, who visit during the day.

“My role is to support the family and to respect their wishes – it sometimes might be to take over the care of the patient completely during the night.

“Part of that is administering medication according to the symptoms of the patient, and that is done step by step, with clear decision-making.”

“The other parts of it are the physical care, the emotional and spiritual care of the person, and supporting the family psychologically – helping them to come to terms with the changes.”

She points out that being at home in familiar surroundings is what many people want.

“The Irish Hospice Foundation have done clear research that states that the majority of people do want to be at home when they are dying. That is why the service is so vital.

“For instance, being at home means you can have your dog on the bed, you can have your cat there, you can have your grandchildren there, your great-grandchildren there.”

The expert was talking to The Herald to promote Daffodil Day next Friday, March 11, which supports the Society’s free cancer services.

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