Helping people talk about end of life wishes - nurse encourages patients at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn

Heike Schaefer is end of life care facilitator at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn.

Heike Schaefer is end of life care facilitator at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. - Credit: Archant

A West Norfolk nurse is raising awareness to ensure patients facing death fulfil their final wishes.

Helping a patient to see their beloved pet for one last time or trying to heal a family rift in the final hours of life are among the ways Heike Schaefer has helped her patients.

Heike is the end of life care facilitator at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn and is hoping to raise the awareness of the importance of people having frank conversations with their loved ones about their preferences and final wishes.

She said: “As a human being we don’t have a choice about how we come into the world but we need to have a choice about how we leave it.

“Everyone has preferences of what they would like to happen and if I can help them along with that then I have done my job.

“Many patients assume their loved ones know what they want, or are fearful or hurting those they love by talking about death. We can help and support patients to have this discussion.

“People need to think about how they want their end to look like and share it with those closest to them so they know what to expect. It will also give reassurance when the time comes as they know they are acting accordingly.”

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Heike has already taken steps to ensure her family will have no doubt as to what her wishes are.

Five years ago, Heike took the decision to create a funeral box, which keeps important documents such as her will and legal power of attorney in one safe place.

Heike said: “Palliative care is everyone’s business and it is quite easy to make it run smoothly for the patient by having those frank conversations as soon as possible. Sometimes people need a little help with that and I’m happy to provide that.

“People often bring in pets for patients to say goodbye to which is important as these animals mean a lot to their owners.

“Once I had a long conversation with a young girl before her death about her make-up and hair. After she had died I was there with the curling irons and make-up. This was an important thing to do as that was part of who this patient was and at that difficult time, it is essential to remember that.”

• If Heike’s story has inspired you then why not join the nursing team at the QEH. We are looking for registered nurses who can make a difference to our patient’s. For more information contact

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