Final Days & Hours of Life
When a patient has reached the end of their life and has only days or hours left on this earth, a hospice caregiver or team member can help in the following ways:
- Explaining the symptoms that the patient may experience. Some behaviors commonly exhibited by dying people (including gurgling, muscle spasms, and confusion) can be disturbing or upsetting to an outside observer, but they are completely normal, and they do not necessarily indicate that the patient is suffering. However, a caregiver can also intervene if the patient is exhibiting signs of severe distress.
- Providing companionship and a “friendly face” during moments of sadness and uncertainty.
- Allowing the patient’s family to express their fears and concerns about the situation without judgement.
- Providing grief and spiritual counseling to both the patient and his or her family. This may include reassurance that no one is “giving up” or “failing” by allowing death to take its natural course.
- Giving personalized, respectful care to the patient, even when he or she appears to be catatonic or unresponsive. Both family members and caregivers should continue to speak to the patient and attempt to keep him or her comfortable, as the patient might still have an awareness of their surroundings or moments of lucidity.
No two people face the death of a loved one in exactly the same way; there’s not necessarily a way “right” or “wrong” way grieve. With hospice care, though, family members are empowered to handle the situation in a way that feels correct to them. And patients experiencing their final moments of life can rest assured that a professional is there to help them and their families during this difficult time.