I do not have much experience in my professional role with end of life or palliative care, with that said, I would like to share with you are some thoughts I have that have arisen as a result of spending time with a friend who is facing an untimely death.
Dealing with and talking about death is something most of us find deeply uncomfortable. We carefully tiptoe around the word, or we try to find different ways of saying it out loud. We may also try to keep our voices light and cheerful and feel it is our duty to steer the conversation to every other topic other than the painful, very real fact of the imminent death of the loved one.
There is nothing wrong with this, and quite often this is exactly what we should do. People who are in this end of life situation feel a range of emotions, from depression to anger, and helping them to focus on something brighter helps alleviate the intensity of these emotions. That said, I have come to realise that it is dishonest to avoid any mention of or reference to the person's reality. My friend raised this topic with me when I was carefully choosing my vocabulary on one of my visits.
He said how he disliked it when some of the carers lied to him. When I asked him what he meant by that, he said he knew what was happening to him, nobody could change that, so he would prefer for people to acknowledge this and not to try to protect him and keep information from him. I realised that this was an aspect of helping someone maintain their dignity, something we in the care industry pay a great deal of attention to in regard to the physical. I had not given much thought to dignity as pertaining to emotional and spiritual aspects of the human experience. I now understand that providing an opportunity for the person to talk about their coming death and to explore what it means to them is one of many ways to show compassion.
Something else I have come to realise is that being involved in end of life care goes beyond what you can do for the patient. Spouses and other family members are in desperate need of solace and reassurance. Sharing something that the loved one did today that they were not able to do yesterday really 'makes their day’. Family members cannot be with their loved one all day in many cases, so sharing messages and photos brings enormous joy to them. If you manage to support the person into the garden, take a photo or a video and send it to the spouse or child, it will be the best experience they will have all day. It also brings joy to the person.
Recording messages for loved ones is another activity which can engage the patient and bring some solace to them. Perhaps they find it difficult to share their feelings directly, but most people will be able and willing to record special messages to be passed on after they are gone. Pets cannot usually visit hospitals and this can cause sadness to many who know they will never see their pet again. Bringing a lovely framed photograph brightens up the hospital room, not to mention the spirits of the patient. When all the visitors have left for the day, the photographs are still there to provide a link to their life outside at that moment in time and space.
Laetitia Hannan is one of our very own Professional Carers who has worked with The Good Care Group as a Relief Carer on the Senior Care Team for over 3 years. Laetitia strongly believes in providing an outstanding service to the clients she cares for, and provides a fascinating insight into the role of a carer. We hope that you enjoyed this blog as much as we did and find it both interesting and useful. If you have any comments or questions please feel free to leave below!