If a family member or friend is battling a terminal illness, the final stages in their life can be a stressful, challenging and emotional time for you and them. You may find that treatment stops working, the symptoms of the disease increase, and their quality of life declines. And as the time of death draws near, a different approach to care should be considered so that you can be present with your loved ones and let them know that they are loved and cared for. Continue reading to learn more.
DISCUSS END-OF-LIFE CARE
Now is the time to start discussing end-of-life care with your loved one. Although end-of-life care may be challenging to discuss, it is best for family members to share their wishes long before it becomes a concern. This can reduce stress when the time for hospice is needed. By having these discussions in advance, patients are not forced into uncomfortable situations. Instead, they can make educated decisions that include family members and loved ones’ advice and input. Check out our free starter kit to help you with the conversation here.
FIND THE RIGHT TYPE OF CARE
If your loved one has a terminal illness or is nearing death, you will likely hear your medical team use terms like “hospice care” and “palliative care.” Both hospice and palliative care can make a tremendous difference in the experience your loved one is facing. Learn more about hospice care below:
- Hospice care is patient-centered care that treats the whole patient by meeting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the individual and their family. This type of end-of-life care begins later when a person’s disease has progressed to its final stages, which is usually in the last six months of life expectancy. This is when a person’s treatment goals change from curing the disease to comfort measures. WV Caring offers compassionate, patient-centered hospice care to individuals with a life-limiting illness at end-of-life. This includes expert medical care, pain and symptom management, emotional and spiritual support and support for the entire family. We offer our hospice services to wherever a patient calls home: private residences, assisted living facilities, nursing homes or wherever a patient lives.
PROVIDE PHYSICAL COMFORT
While symptoms in the final stages of life vary from patient to patient, and according to illness, there are common symptoms experienced at the end of someone’s life. It is necessary to be aware of these signs and know how to provide comfort to your loved ones if they are experiencing them.
- Not eating: Feed small amounts of food. Use ice chips or a damp sponge to keep the mouth moist.
- Face dryness: Use a damp cloth to relieve dryness around the eyes. Apply lip balm or petroleum jelly to the lips.
- Labored breathing: Gently turn the person’s head, adjust pillows or raise the head of the bed. Use a cool-mist humidifier. Ask your medical team about medication or the use of oxygen.
- Skin irritation: Gently apply lotion to dry skin. Learn how to move and adjust the person safely in bed to avoid the development of sores.
- Incontinence: Learn how to change incontinence pads or ask about the use of a catheter.
- Agitation or confusion: Speak calmly and be reassuring. Hold hands or use a gentle touch if it is comforting. Remind the person where he or she is and who is there. Ask your medical team for help if significant agitation occurs.
- Pain: Give pain medication as directed. Ask your medical team to adjust medication if needed.
- Temperature sensitivity: Pay attention to clues to whether the person feels hot or cold. Adjust the room temperature and bedding as needed.
SHOW EMOTIONAL SUPPORT
As your loved one copes with a serious illness, they may experience feelings of loss, emotional distress, fear and depression. You can provide emotional support by listening, being present, creating a calm environment and removing distractions.
We are here to help you navigate this emotional terrain with our expert staff. We have some of the best counselors and spiritual staff in the region who can help sort out any issues or concerns about dying.
RESEARCH SHORT-TERM, ACUTE CARE PLACEMENT
If your loved one has a terminal illness or is in the final stages of their life, they may, at some point, require a higher level of care. WV Caring’s Hospice Center is designed to offer short-term, acute care for patients who need a higher level of care to stabilize their condition well enough so they can return home. Our unique Hospice Center provides specialized hospital-like care in a home-like setting, and we have the only inpatient unit in North Central West Virginia.
Our Hospice Center is perfect for patients who need:
- Pain and symptom control that cannot be managed at home.
- Complex medical care
- To reduce readmissions to the hospital related to their illness.
- Options for transitions from hospital to home or nursing homes
- Introductions to new medications
- Stabilizing treatments from their disease
- Specialized care throughout the dying process
- Respite care
- Provide end-of-life for those who experienced a traumatic event and will not recover.
Although this is a painful time, saying goodbye to a loved one is an opportunity that many people do not have. Do not wait until the last minute to say goodbye because no one can predict when their final moment will happen. Even if your loved one appears unresponsive, identify yourself and talk to them. The feeling of touch is one of the last senses a person has before death. Hearing is widely known as the final sense to go when a person dies, so keep talking to your loved one. They will likely hear what you are saying even if they do not speak to you. You can tell them it’s ok to go; we will be fine, we’ll see you again. And if you are having trouble finding the words to say, try holding their hand. It will bring comfort and closeness between both of you.
Bereavement is a normal and healthy step in moving forward with life after the death of a loved one. At WV Caring, we provide 12 months of free bereavement support for the family after the death of a loved one. It can be in the form of counseling, support groups, education, grief materials and our Camp Caring. If you would like to learn more about grief, read our blog, Support an Individual Who is Grieving.
PREPARING FOR THE FINAL STAGES IN YOUR LOVED ONE’S LIFE | WV CARING
When your loved one is diagnosed with a life-limiting or terminal illness, WV Caring will provide you with the expertise and resources you need to help you through this difficult time. From beginning to end, WV Caring is here for you and your loved ones. You will never be alone. If you have questions about our services, contact us by calling 1-866-656-9790 or online here.