Being there for John in his final hours

No one should be alone at end of life

A few months ago, when Rowcroft Hospice’s Senior Healthcare Assistant Lisa Camplin visited John (name changed) in Newton Abbot, she found she was the only one with him on his journey as they faced the end of his life together. John was scared, anxious, estranged from friends and family, and very much alone, but he managed to open a door and let Lisa into his life so that she could provide specialist care and support to him in his final hours.

Lisa’s journey with John

“John was a very respectful, private man,” said Lisa. “I only became part of his story for the last nine hours of his life, and I was privileged enough to be allowed and accepted into his journey. I was always led by his decisions and I ensured that, as much as possible, John was in control of the situation and the decisions made. John was very scared, and before my arrival he did not want to accept much help or guidance, but had agreed for me to do a night sit.

“John was a young man fighting against an illness that was slowly taking his control and so much of himself. He was suffering with breathlessness, and when I arrived he told me that he wanted to hold no conversation with me and handed me the TV remote control. I handed it back and said no, it was his home, and he should decide what to watch. He gave me a small smile and said, ‘I think you may be my guardian angel.’ I told him I would sit in the chair beside him, and if he needed anything to put his thumb up – a signal he used often as a sign of communication.”

Providing care and comfort

“Although he had refused earlier injections, he now agreed to have the medication as it would make him feel more comfortable, relaxed and sleepy, and I organised for the night sister to visit to give him the injection. I reassured him that I would still be there when he woke.

“John was very frightened and anxious, so I suggested that having someone sitting beside him could make him feel that bit safer. His sofa was quite cluttered, but he told me to clear a space. I sat beside him but made sure I didn’t encroach on his space too much. I said that sometimes holding a hand can help make a person feel safer and more in control, and he looked at me and then slowly put his hand out and slipped it into mine. I placed my other hand on top of his, to give him a firm feeling he wasn’t alone. He looked down at my hands and said, ‘what small hands you have’. I felt this was the moment that John fully accepted and trusted me and let me have the privilege of being beside him on his journey.

“After the injection, John drifted off to sleep whilst holding my hand and remained sleeping and settled for three hours before waking again. He asked for another injection and then went back to sleep once more. I returned to the other chair, giving John his personal space which he valued, whilst ensuring John still knew I was near him.

“Two hours later, I felt it was time to take the seat beside him again. I slipped my hand inside his hand and said ‘John, I’m here beside you’. I got no verbal reply but felt John was aware of my presence. Ten minutes later John passed peacefully away.”

A true privilege

“Over the years, while working for Rowcroft, I’ve been truly privileged to provide this special support to many patients during such a difficult time in their lives. This night shift at John’s is one I will never forget. I got to see glimpses of who John was, gained his trust at the most vulnerable point of his life, and felt I truly made a difference in the final stages of his illness. Most importantly, he wasn’t alone.

“Every day we are there to help patients and their loved one in whatever way they need, from helping them to manage difficult symptoms to making caring at home easier.”

Rowcroft’s No One Alone Appeal

“Through Rowcroft Hospice’s No One Alone Appeal, by 2026 we hope to raise an additional £500,000 every year to help expand our specialist end-of-life care to support 260 more patients across South Devon. Dying is sad, but we can make a difference to people in their journey through delivering high quality care, support, love, and empathy. We hope that as many people as possible will support the appeal to help us care for more people who are facing the hardest times imaginable.”

Rowcroft Hospice’s No One Alone Appeal aims to highlight the harsh reality that each year too many people in South Devon are unable to access the essential end-of-life care they need due to a critical gap in resources and funding. While Rowcroft is playing a key role in delivering specialist end-of-life care and support to 2,500 patients and their loved ones in South Devon each year, an escalating local demand is placing unparalleled pressures on the hospice.

To make a donation, or for further information, please visit the No One Alone Appeal webpage.

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