Dealing with a progressive or terminal illness is an emotional and stressful time for patients and their families. The focus of medical management is to propose interventions which will extend life and to ensure patients suffer as little as possible.
There is no doubt that receiving a devastating diagnosis will lead to death, however talking about dying is still uncomfortable for many people. Nevertheless, at some point during the progression of the disease, the patient and/or their family may begin to think about end of life care.
Excellent palliative care is available in many communities in either a hospital setting or hospice and can be great options for patients who have little support or specific circumstances. However, if you ask palliative patients where they would prefer to spend their last days, most will tell you they want to die at home.
It’s not hard to understand why patients would want to be at home. Their homes are comfortable and familiar; it is where they feel secure and connected with family and friends. They may have beloved pets or special items which give them comfort and help cope with their illness.
Deciding to die at home, however, can be a very difficult decision for patients and families to make. The patient may feel guilty about placing such a heavy burden on their family or the family may not able to provide the amount of care that is required at this stage of the illness. Even with adequate family support, the patient could have fears about experiencing death at home and question whether their needs can be managed outside of a medical institution.
Many patients choose to stay at home provided they can remain relatively comfortable and be supported by a medical team. For this reason, more patients and their families are turning to home care services to help ease the burden of care and to fulfill the client’s end of life wishes.
Home care services have a team of health care providers which provide professional and personalized palliative care to patients with compassion and respect. The goal of end of life care in the home is to provide enough support to enable a terminal patient to die with dignity and on their own terms. Home can be their personal residence or a chosen home, such a retirement residence.
Registered nurses with specialized training and experience in palliative care provide services in the home to manage pain symptoms and help patients achieve the highest quality of life right up until death. As the patient’s condition changes, the nurse reassesses the patient and liaises with the medical team to adapt the care plan to best suit the patient’s needs.
Other home care staff such as home health care aides provide hands-on care such as positioning, personal care, toileting, mobility, meal preparation, medications and other means of support which helps to keep the patient comfortable. They also provide socialization and emotional support.
Not surprisingly, home care services can have as much impact on the families, as the patients themselves. Families who have experienced home palliative care will often express they feel comforted by the care they witnessed and believe their loved ones died according to their wishes:
“We are so appreciative of the countless ways that you helped Gramps be able to enjoy the last stage of his life. You shared so much of your laughter, energy, caring, patience, and kindness with him, and he was better and happier as a result. Our entire family is thankful that you were a positive force for him”
“Yvette was an absolute angel when she helped me care for my partner, Mike during the last week of his life. She was gentle, soft-spoken, attentive, skillful and always 100% professional. Mike was dignified and comfortable as I had prayed for”
Death is never easy. After all is said and done, most families just want to know their loved one was kept as comfortable as possible, got excellent care and their wishes were respected until the very end of their life.
For more information on home care palliative care services, contact UNS today at 1-800-334-5140 or email [email protected].