Each story is different when it comes to how our lives end. For some, death comes suddenly and with little to no warning, and others may linger and gradually fade. Some elderly people face a weakening body, while their mind is still alert. On the other side of the coin, some remain physically fit, yet they are cognitively impaired. End-of-life care describes the emotional support and medical care given to a patient as they are dying. This doesn’t only begin in the moments before a person takes their final breath. Many elderly individuals live with one or more chronic illnesses and need significant help in the weeks or months leading up to their death. Even if a patient’s physician has said all medical treatments have been exhausted, it only closes the possibility for a cure, it does not end their need for medical care.
Everyone hopes to pass away peacefully, and that is the goal of compassionate end-of-life care. While a peaceful passing may mean something different for one person to the next, there are usually similarities between those who are fortunate enough to have palliative care at the end of their lives. These include having their end-of-life wishes followed, avoiding pain or suffering, and being treated with respect and dignity while dying.
In general, those who are dying need care if four specific areas:
- Physical comfort: This involves alleviating pain, providing breathing support, relieving skin irritation, helping with digestive discomfort, minimizing temperature sensitivity, and ensuring adequate rest.
- Mental and emotional needs: A person near death may be experiencing emotional distress or anxiety, and understandably so. Encouraging open discourse about their feelings can provide comfort to the patient. You may also want them to express their specific fears or concerns.
- Spiritual issues: Many people find comfort in having their spiritual needs met, just as much as their physical and emotional needs. Many find solace in their faith, and speaking to a member of their religious community brings comfort.
- Practical tasks: Even at the end of life, the patient will likely wonder about the everyday tasks they must leave behind when they pass. Offering reassurance, such as telling the patient you will take care of their pet or their plants, reminds the dying person their personal affairs are in good hands.
When diagnosed with a terminal chronic illness, you may wish to plan end-of-life care. Contact Primary Care Associates of Texas to learn more, to book an appointment online.