As a healthcare professional, you do much more than give your patients a shot at life and heal. When all is said and done and medicine dictates that nothing else can be done for a patient to live, this news can be devastating. And, it’s as dampening on your spirits as it is for the family who has to hear this news.
Putting a loved one or a patient through hospice is not an easy decision to make. But, you’ve got to do what you have to do. And, at that point, it’s to give them the best palliative and end-of-life care possible. Patients are aware of the situation, and if you have taken care of all other arrangements including end of life planning, they will feel more secure knowing their wishes will be respected. This can bring a sense of peace and comfort to the patient and to their family members. At least make them feel comfortable and happy throughout the last few days and – if they’re lucky, months. It’ll make all the difference in ensuring that through and through, the patient has had the best quality of life possible.
With that said, here are four hospice care tips you can use as you help a patient through what’s also known as the end-of-life phase.
- Support Them With The Heavy Decisions They Make
If the patient is still mentally able to make decisions for themselves, let them make as many decisions for their life as they can. All you can do is guide them throughout and ensure they’re all in everyone’s best interest. There shouldn’t be harm intended.
Allowing hospice patients to speak and make their own decisions gives them a sense of control over their life. It is essential in keeping their morale up. It’s not surprising how during their last days, some patients may feel hopeless and frustrated as everyone seems to be making all the decisions for them. Remember that while the patient may be dying, they’re still living. It is still their life to live.
Some of the questions you’ll have to consider while the patient is making one tough decision in their life include:
- What emotional and spiritual support is needed by the dying patient
- When to discontinue any treatment, if such is no longer helpful to the patient;
- How to help the patient spend more quality time with their family and friends, even while in the hospice;
- When to remove life support machines;
- How to support the patient’s family to play an active role in caring for the dying patient.
Those decisions are only a few. But of course, you’ll have to consult with their family constantly. There’s so much more you can learn about hospice care through supplementing with other sources. This site is one of those.
- Start Conversations With Their Loved Ones
The days when a patient is at the hospice can be tough for them and their family. But, now more than ever, patient needs their family to be there for them.
It’s on you as a healthcare professional to make that point clear with the family members. Whenever they’re around, don’t take them out of the equation. They may not be physicians but they can lift the emotional and mental health of your patient.
The last thing you’d want is for the patient to feel sad in the remaining days of their life, feeling like their family has entirely forgotten all about them. So, ensure to communicate with their loved ones.
- Follow National And Local Guidelines
Wherever you may be reading this from, each city, state, or country may have its respective guidelines for hospice and palliative care. As a healthcare professional, it’s your job to be familiar with these guidelines. There’s no making any bargain with this. You have to do what the state asks you to do. Otherwise, you may be held negligent in failing to abide by medical and legal standards of hospice care to patients.
- Take Conversational Cues From Your Patient
Every patient taken to hospice care has different needs, characters, and personalities. There’s no uniform way for healthcare professionals to treat hospice care patients other than the national and local guidelines that need to be observed.
Taking that aside, psychological, emotional, and mental needs will vary from one patient to another. For example, some may be comfortable talking about death and the situation they’re in, while some are the opposite. As a healthcare professional, you have to learn to study and take conversational cues from your patient.
Don’t force conversations when they don’t feel like talking. Take it one day at a time. If you respect your patient, they will eventually consider you a friend. Soon enough, the frowns, silence, and grumpiness will turn to honest conversations and friendly smiles.
If you both have to sit silently for some days, that’s okay. What matters is as their medical caregiver, you’re present for your patient.
- Recognize When Death Is Near
It is that dreaded moment for patients and their caregivers. As a healthcare worker, you may have been through this moment so many times in the past. But, this isn’t to say you’ve gotten used to it. For each patient, the signs of death may vary. But there are those common impending signs which you have to be on the lookout for.
Those signs include:
- Crackling or gurgling sounds when the patient breathes;
- Agitation and confusion;
- Stories of the patient saying they can see someone who has already died;
- Increased periods of drowsiness;
- Swelling and bluish colors in the feet and hands.
It’s crucial to monitor the signs that death may be near, so you can also report the same to the other members of your patient’s care team. Don’t forget there are family members, too. This news may be hard to take, but at least it buys them a few days to prepare and gain strength when their loved one is already dying.
If you’ve long continued to ask yourself, ‘What does a good quality end of life care look like to patients?’, the tips above will have you covered. As a healthcare professional, this is that time for you to realize you’ve done all you can – medically. When there’s nothing more that medicine could do, at the very least what you can give is love, care, and comfort. If your patient nears death and rests peacefully under your care, you’ll want to provide a pleasant experience. However, the way you wish to provide hospice care, keep it as person-centered as possible. Give those last few days a sense of dignity.