Supporting people at the end of their lives is an important part of the Mater Hospital’s service. It involves caring for people during their last few days, weeks or months and ensuring their comfort and dignity. 

Comfort and dignity

43% of all people who will die this year in Ireland will die in an acute hospital. The Mater Hospital is committed to making sure that people who die in our care experience comfort and dignity, and that their families are supported in their bereavement.

When a person is dying or has just died on the ward, this symbol may be displayed at a nurses’ station or on a sign on the doors to the ward. The symbol indicates to staff and visitors that an intensely personal event is happening on the ward. It signifies to all that it is a time for dignity and respect.

The symbol is inspired by ancient Irish history and is not associated with any one religion. The three-stranded white spiral represents the interconnected cycle of life – birth, life and death.

The Hospice Friendly Hospitals programme

The Hospice Friendly Hospitals Programme is an initiative of the Irish Hospice Foundation, in partnership with the Health Service Executive (HSE). It was established in 2007 and seeks to ensure that end-of-life, palliative and bereavement care is central to the everyday business of hospitals.

We aim to provide the highest standard of end-of-life care for all our patients and their families, and the Hospice Friendly Hospitals programme looks at how we can continually improve this. We are working on all aspects of end-of-life care, from the education and training of staff to audits and research. We are also focussed on enhancing the physical environment by creating family-friendly rooms on our busy wards.

Questions you may have

You may hear the words “palliative care” mentioned in the hospital. The palliative care team is a team of doctors, nurses and other staff who specialise in providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness.

As well as providing relief from pain and other symptoms, palliative care offers support and comfort to patients and provides for their physical, emotional and spiritual needs in the best way possible. For more information on palliative care, please see our palliative care page.

When a family member is seriously ill or dying, visitors may attend our hospital outside of visiting hours. The relevant nurse manager will discuss this with you and your family. If you wish to have visitors restricted, please tell our nursing staff and we will do our very best to ensure this happens.

We ask that you respect the privacy of others and that you limit the number of people visiting at any given time to a maximum of two. 

We do have limited access to an overnight room for family members. In general, this is only offered to those families whose loved ones are in the last days of their life. We can, on occasion, set up a temporary bed or recliner chair in the family room. The relevant nurse manager will discuss this with you and your family. Longer term accommodation cannot be provided.

Caring for someone with a serious illness can be both a difficult and fulfilling experience. Information and guidance for carers can help to make the experience less stressful. Our medical social work service can provide you with information, advice and support.

The Irish Cancer Society has a helpful booklet called A Time to Care, which contains advice about caring for a seriously ill person at home. For a free copy, visit the Daffodil Centre in our hospital or call the Irish Cancer Society’s Cancer Nurseline on Freefone 1800 200 700.

Taking part in decisions that are made about your treatment is the single most important way to get the best care for your needs. It is okay to ask us questions and to expect answers you can understand. It may help to write your questions down before an appointment. You can also take notes and have a family member or carer with you.

How you can help our end of life care service

At the hospital, we are working towards the goal of having a dedicated family room in each ward for patients and their families.  Families have told us how much they have appreciated having a carefully designed family room on our wards. You can help us achieve our goal by contacting the Mater Foundation and telling them you would like to donate to or fundraise for the “End of life care and family room refurbishment fund”. 

Family rooms

Each room offers patients and families a quiet, private space, set apart from the busy ward. It is a place where you can meet with health care professionals and discuss your concerns in private. We have completely refurbished eight family rooms, where families have access to tea and coffee making facilities free of charge. Each family room also has a sofa bed to allow a family member stay overnight when their loved one is seriously ill or dying.  


Helpful information and resources

Related services