During the last phase of life, there are several predictable areas in which a person needs help, comfort and reassurance. The role of hospice and palliative care is to ease the stress and difficulty inherent in the dying process. Ideas are presented here for providing comfort for three challenging processes that dying people encounter: physical, psycho-social, and spiritual.

Dying can be hard work, physically. In many cases, it is neither relaxing nor passive; there can be strain on many levels. Physical challenge requires satisfaction of the body’s needs. The goal is to reduce stress and ease the transition from life to death, by making the body as comfortable as possible. Physical comforts can relieve a great deal of stress, from a peaceful environment and appropriate food and water, to touch, medication management and other helpful palliative measures.

According to Atul Gawande, MD in his August, 2010 New Yorker article “Letting Go,” the five priorities of terminally ill patients are:

  • avoid unnecessary suffering
  • being with family
  • the touch of others
  • being mentally aware
  • not being a burden to others