Reports from the medical sector show that more than 1.3 million people receive hospice care each year in the United States. This type of care allows many people to carry out their wishes of passing away at home rather than in a medical facility. As such, those people are allowed to live out their final moments surrounded by loved ones in the environment where they were happiest.
Providing Comfort During a Loved One’s Final Days
Whether you’re actively involved in a loved one’s end-of-life care or providing supplemental support, watching a relative or close friend nearing the end isn’t easy. Still, understanding what you can do to help with hospice care is essential. It can help overcome the feelings of helplessness so many people experience in situations like these and aid in comforting your loved one during his or her final days.
1) Listen to Your Loved One
People experience life’s end in different ways. Some primarily sleep because they’re heavily medicated. Others may have visual or auditory hallucinations or experience unusual physical sensations. People often try to argue with their loved ones or convince them those experiences are all in their heads. Instead of taking that approach, try to simply listen to your loved one’s descriptions and offer support and comfort if needed.
2) Pay Close Attention
Hospice patients may not be able to communicate verbally with others. They often communicate in other ways, though, such as through hand motions or facial expressions. Pay close attention to your loved one, and try to interpret the thoughts and feelings he or she is trying to convey through non-verbal communication. If possible, act on those gestures to help make your loved one more comfortable.
3) Offer Updates and Explanations
Terminal conditions and their treatments often leave people confused and disoriented during their final days. Keep your loved one updated about what’s going on. Explain what you and hospice personnel are doing at various times. That can provide comfort for your loved one and possibly help keep him or her somewhat grounded.
4) Keep Physical Comfort in Mind
Physical comfort is just as important as its emotional counterpart. Fluff your loved one’s pillows. Straighten his or her bedding and clothing when possible. Adjust his or her position if necessary, and keep the temperature in the room in mind. Covering all those details can help keep your loved one more comfortable in the physical sense.
5) Offer Comfortable Clothing and Bedding
Clean, soft blankets and warm pajamas may seem like moot points considering the circumstances. In reality, though, they can be exceedingly comforting in many ways. They will keep your loved one warm both physically and emotionally while ensuring he or she is as comfortable as possible.
6) Give Refreshment
If your loved one is physically able to take in fluids, this need should be kept in mind as well. Offer warm broth or cool drinks. Ice chips can help as well. Don’t try to force these on your loved one, but make them available if you can.
7) Remember Your Loved One’s Final Wishes
If your loved one talked to you about his or her final wishes before the hospice stage, be sure to keep those in mind. This applies to funeral arrangements, end-of-life care, saying goodbye to friends and relatives, and many other details.
8) Use Your Voice
Sometimes, hearing a loved one’s voice offers more comfort and reassurance than anything else. Talk to your loved one even if you don’t think he or she can hear or understand you. Tell him or her about your day, funny things your children did, what you heard on the news or anything else you can think of to say.
9) Provide Companionship
In some instances, there’s no need to offer refreshments or even talk to a loved one. Simply being there is the best, or only, the thing you can do. If that’s the case, just sit by your loved one’s bed and hold his or her hand.
Giving Your Loved One Help and Attention
Many people feel completely helpless when a loved one is receiving hospice care. Standing idly by, trying to stay out of the nurse’s way isn’t a good feeling. Not knowing what to do or how to help is even worse. Keep these points in mind while a loved one is receiving hospice care. Whether you’re checking to see if your loved one is too warm or cold or simply chattering away about mundane topics, simply being there is more helpful than you may realize.