The goal of comfort care, another way to describe medical care for the seriously ill, is to help honor the wishes of the patient. Caring for them during this hard stage commonly involves a combination of medical, social, emotional, spiritual and practical support. Doctors, nurses, social workers, nutritionists, aids and spiritual advisers can all play a role in offering quality care for the seriously ill.
It’s possible for medical care for the seriously ill (or hospice care or palliative care) to be offered in various settings, such as at home, in a hospital where treatment can be given for as long as possible, at nursing homes, outpatient palliative care clinics or in a hospice center. No matter the location, the goal is to honor each individual’s wishes, including where they want to be and who they want to be present while they are nearing death, including family or friends, for example.
These are the 4 best steps to help the seriously ill:
1. Ease Symptoms Like Trouble Breathing, Digestive Issues & Skin Irritation and manage pain and discomfort
Pain during a seriously ill stage can be due to various health issues, such as those that cause symptoms like trouble breathing, digestive issues like loss of appetite or nausea, skin irritation or rashes, temperature sensitivity, fatigue, weakness, and others. Pain can also increase irritability, interfere with sleep and appetite and make it difficult to spend meaningful time with loved ones when it matters most.
When it comes to seriously ill patients, pain management may be different than during other life stages. This is for a variety of reasons, including less concern about possible long-term problems associated with pain medications, drug dependence or abuse. This is why seriously ill caregivers experts recommend using pain medications at dosages that help bring relief, and this includes even strong medications such as morphine. There is not much evidence that pain medications shorten life span, but there is evidence that they provide much-needed comfort to those who are close to dying.
Other than pain medications, caregivers may ease discomfort through intravenous fluids, touch or gentle massage, music, therapy, psychological support, or in some cases use of some herbs/supplements.
2. Create a Comfortable Environment (Temperature and Lighting)
Because many people tend to feel cool as they are ill, it’s helpful to keep them warm with comfortable, soft blankets and a temperature-controlled room. In the case that fever develops, keeping the room cool and applying a cool cloth to their head is useful.
If the patient wants to spend extra time sleeping or closing their eyes, those around them can help make them feel comfortable by also staying quiet, speaking in a normal to soft voice, gently holding their hand and keeping the lighting in the room low or soft. As long as the patient is okay with it, lightly massage their forehead, read to them, diffuse essential oils for anxiety (such as lavender and chamomile) and/or play soothing music to help make the environment seem calmer.
3. Deal with Emotional Pain and Suffering
An important aspect of care for the seriously ill is emotional and social support. A team of mental health providers, such as therapists or counselors, can help with handling stress, anxiety and uncertainty during this difficult time. Therapy, family meeting and support groups are all useful for reducing fear, hopelessness or depression in this stage of life.
4. Address Spiritual Needs
Many people during seriously ill stages will seek spiritual help to find comfort, meaning, and faith. It’s common for spiritual advisors to visit patients in hospice, at home or at a hospital in order to help them find acceptance and peace, sometimes through healing prayer. This can be beneficial not only for the patient who is ill but also for their caregivers and family who are grieving.
At Providence Healthcare Services we offer specialized chronic disease management programs for the frailest patient population. Our in-house Clinical Care Management team has an established roadmap to achieve the best clinical outcomes and reduce unnecessary hospital re-admissions.
We work closely with physicians, hospital discharge planners, case managers, and social workers to achieve the best transition from hospital to home and ensure proper continuity of care.
If you or an aging loved one are considering Caregiver Services in Miami, contact the caring staff at Providence Healthcare Services. We provide services in all of Miami Dade County and the Upper Keys. Call today (305) 220-1088