Dying in Care

The book of wisdom tells there is a time for everything under the sun. A time to be born a time to die. Sooner or later each person will have an appointment with death,  and by extension, each family will have to endure the death of a loved one.

The circumstances of a person’s demise might be intense and swift as in a massive heart failure. On the other hand, it may be a slow grueling exit often occurring with pain, much discomfort, and stress.

Most of the persons in a long-term care facility are aged. The facility becomes their home, where they are cared for until death. Some residents accept this fact gracefully. However many struggles with this transition, and constantly express a longing desire to return home. This, despite great efforts by many care facilities to decorate their new homes with emotional artifacts and memoirs of families, friends, events, and adventures of their past life.

The more sophisticated facilities employ the services of the recreational therapist, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists to design creative, stimulating activities to engage the minds and interests of residents; to add value and some limited excitement during the wait.

However long the wait, a point will arrive when care-aids will be informed that a resident is palliative and will need to be provided comfort care.

What is comfort care?

Generally, comfort care is not only for the resident but also the visiting families.  As stipulated by the care plan, the resident may need to be repositioned every hour. This in order to present pressure sores, as well as to relieve pain.

If breathing is stressful, then oxygen therapy is applied. Mouth care is very important during this period as mucous secretions build up in the mouth; may even require suction to clear the throat.

Often the residents have stopped eating solid food but may be able to take some fluids to moisten the mouth and throat. Pain relief medications may intensify. Ultimately the intention is to offer as much comfort and relief in the last moments of a dying resident.

The emotional separation is equally stressful for the caregivers. Issues of one’s own mortality come to the fore and question asked might be ‘how far am I on my appointment with death?