How to Ensure the Highest Level of Comfort at the End of Life

How to Ensure the Highest Level of Comfort at the End of Life

Article posted in General on 25 April 2018| comments
audience: National Publication | last updated: 26 April 2018
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Summary

End of Life Planning encompasses more than proper documents. It also includes levels of care and interaction.

By: Avery T. Phillips

The greatest gifts you can give a dying loved one are to be by their side, do what you can to soothe and support them, and relieve suffering the best you can.

Even though death is an inevitable part of life, watching someone close to you experience the dying process and dealing with end of life care planning are a few of the hardest things you’ll ever go through.

Ensuring the highest level of comfort for a dying loved one will allow you to do what is in your control and accept what is not. Providing physical, spiritual, emotional and psychological support are a few goals to focus on as you help someone ease into their transition while respecting their wishes:

Creating a Peaceful Environment

In the days and hours before a person’s death, nurses deliver much of the physical care  for your loved one, but there are several simple things you can do to supplement care and provide a positive environment.

  • Someone who is dying needs a tranquil and quiet place to rest, whether at home, in hospice or in a hospital. If you are keeping vigil, make sure the room has soft lighting and people are using quiet voices.
  • Try to limit the number of people in the room at one time so it’s not overwhelming for anyone. Sometimes soft music is soothing, although not if people are talking in the room. Make sure fragrant flowers are not in the room as the smell can be overpowering. Try to allow fresh air to circulate through the room so it’s not too stagnant.
  • If you notice parched or cracked lips, use lip balm to ease the discomfort. Ask one of the nurses what else you can do if you notice dry lips or mouth.
  • Be sure to touch your loved one gently by holding their hand or rubbing their arm or leg.
  • Make sure they are comfortable in their bed. Maybe they are cold and need a blanket. Or perhaps they need a layer taken off the bed if they seem too warm.

What are some of the signs that indicate a dying person is uncomfortable or in pain? According the blog On The Way to Dying, “they keep shifting around in the bed, trying to get comfortable, or scrunch their face into a grimace or their limbs contract in a muscle spasm. These are just some of the signals that they are experiencing pain.”

Spirituality

For some, spiritual needs are just as important as physical comfort and care toward the end of life. Most of us wonder about the meaning of life and if there’s an afterlife. It may be especially important for your loved one to talk about if they so choose.

“Spirituality is the deep inner essence of who we are,” according to an article on AARP. “Related to our soul, spirituality comes from the unique qualities of each individual. It is based on personal experiences and relationship with God, nature or a higher power. It answers the question: Why am I here?”

You’ll want to talk to your loved one about what they need to help avoid any spiritual pain they might be experiencing. They should be encouraged to talk about their feelings. Meditation, mindfulness, and mantras might be helpful. Ask your loved one if they would like a spiritual leader to be present.

Mental and Emotional Needs

For someone who is alert enough to know what’s happening, it’s important to allow them to talk about any emotional fears they may have. They may be feeling anxious, regretful, depressed or angry over their situation.

A hospice social worker or qualified counselor can help you and your loved one navigate any emotions and concerns that come up. Some people fear being alone, or they fear the unknown, or they are worried about the people they are leaving behind.

Make sure they feel loved while also giving them time to process and rest. Restlessness and anxiety indicate the need for more communication. The process of letting go is a normal part of dying, but be prepared for the gamut of emotional and mental changes one might be experiencing along the way.

Being there for a dying loved one is a selfless act. At the same time, it’s important to be mindful of the effects of grief and loss that may impact your own mental health. Providing quality comfort and care for both your loved one and yourself are important factors in the big picture of an ending life. The end of life is never an easy process. By following some of our tips, you’ll be more prepared to help your loved one and yourself. 


Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.

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