No one wants to think about end of life care, but the right palliative support and communication can make all the difference to both the patient and the family. It’s natural to feel apprehensive at the thought of discussing death, but finding a way to broach these normal questions when someone is dying can be hugely beneficial for all.
Communicating with care staff
By openly talking about you or a loved ones’ end of life needs and requirements, it provides palliative care staff with the understanding of the wishes and priorities of the patient. This helps the care team to deliver the right level of support to the patient and to give them the information that they need to make their decisions. Equally, it means that the care team can discuss any anxieties with the patient and their family, provide information where there might be some knowledge gaps, and offer reassurance to patients and families alike. The end of life care team – which can even include ‘death doulas’ who are present at death – act as a supportive bridge between everyone involved.
There other benefits too:
There is no getting away from the fact that death invariably involves administration for the family at a time when they are experiencing grief and may be unsure about what their loved one wanted. By having those conversations as part of an end of life care process, the dying person’s wishes can be understood and honoured and some of the processes can be made easier and quicker by dealing with them beforehand. A skilled care support worker can have those conversations in a way that is respectful, supportive, practical and dignified, and they can get involved in the organisation or delegation of practical elements as needed.
The little things can also be greatly facilitated with the right end of life care. With a supportive team in place, someone can always be on hand to sit and speak with the patient and carry out small tasks – from adjusting the height of the bed and providing drinks, to getting chairs when visitors arrive. Professional carers will also risk assess bed rail usage, being mindful of the barrier that they can cause at this time as loved ones say goodbye and seek to maximise loving contact with the patient.
Sensitive conversations to prepare in advance
The professionals involved can instigate the sensitive conversations that are otherwise difficult to have – both with the patient and with their loved ones. These conversations can cover any number of topics, but where the patient is ill, they can include difficult discussions about pain relief, resuscitation, and so forth. Preparation for how the patient might ideally like to pass away is extremely valuable; as some patients have special requests about the people they want present, and some even want to see a pet. With advance notice, the necessary arrangements can be made.
Updating friends and family
Palliative care professionals can keep the patient’s loved ones updated on topics such as the patient’s condition, care and treatment and be there as a source of help when needed. They can also make practical arrangements for things such as food and drink, as the period of time can be very intense.
The nature of end of life care means that conversations will constantly change in the final weeks and days. The value of this type of care cannot be underestimated in the final days of a patient’s life and it can make a tremendously difficult time easier to bear.
If you would like to know more about palliative care or have a query you would like answered, You’ll find that all our telephone staff are sympathetic to your needs and able to offer advice and support at this difficult time.