Allowing people to die with dignity in their own homes

Rita Ryan, a night nurse with the Irish Cancer Society pictured promoting Daffodil Day. Photo: Pat Moore.
Facing death is a universal challenge that meets everyone at some stage in their life.

Facing death is a universal challenge that meets everyone at some stage in their life.

Dying with dignity surrounded by those you love in the familiarity and comfort of one’s own home is made a reality for many through the work of The Irish Cancer Society who provide palliative care for people who chose to die at home.

Rita Ryan, is a night nurse based in Kilkenny who has worked with the charity for 12 years providing support and peace of mind for those in need in palliative care and their loved ones.

This weekend the charity will hold their annual fundraiser, Daffodil Day which raises money for the service.

“Sometimes for a family it is a huge venture to care for their loved one in their own home and this is where I step in to be there as a support and a training guide. The service that the Irish Cancer Society provides gives people the choice to die at home and gives their family and loved ones the support, advice and practical support to be able to care for them. The focus of my work is on the palliative care of the person and it gives the person the freedom to be among the people they love in their own home.

“In a hospital environment a patient is the guest where when a nurse is in someone’s home they are the guest. Everyone reacts differently but my role is to be there as a support and to give the family a rest. It is so important that people take care of themselves as best they can and this stands to them and providing a night nurse is an essential service for both the patient and their families,” she said.

Through the Irish Cancer Society a night nurse is provided overnight for eight hours. There is an additional service from 5pm to 8pm that can be provided and the local HomeCare Team, which is run by the Health Service Executive can give support during the day.

“Daffodil Day is so important to us. It is the charity’s main fundraiser and as a result of the monies raised we are able to provide for cover for so many extra nights.” she said.

While such work might appear to be challenging Rita explains that much light and happiness can be discovered during this time.

“Often people make their peace with each other, sometimes they have not talked for a long time and it is in this moment that resolution is often found. There can be a lot of happiness and joy and laughter during this time,” she said.

75% of cancer patients wish to die at home surrounded by family, yet only 25% get to do so. The Irish Cancer Society provides the only night time care service for cancer patients in their own homes. The service is also available to those people living with chronic pain. For more see