Updated: Nov 14, 2021
“Sometimes, the best way to help someone is just to be near them.” ― Veronica Roth
Patients nearing the end of life generally have a few basic wishes —relief from symptoms such as pain or shortness of breath, peace of mind, and to be surrounded by loved ones.
Patients who are diagnosed with a terminal illness for which there is no cure are often admitted to hospice. It is the responsibility of the hospice organization to provide clinical interventions as well as emotional support. These services are important in their care; however, the most desired and effective comfort usually comes from the loved ones of the patient. Most dying patients have fears unique to them. Some wish to know if death is near so they can speak one last time with a friend or relative. Some don't want to be alone. Others still, need human presence and contact to feel safe and secure as they sense a slipping away. This need is created when they begin to feel increasingly more isolated as their disease progresses.
The advice for families and loved ones of the patient include the following;
· Be present. Sometimes simply being there for the dying patient is the comfort and reassurance they need.
· Set the mood. Soft lighting and favorite music can have a calming effect.
· Human touch. Offer soft touches or massage to allow the patient to feel connected to another human.
I remember a time when I was visiting a patient at his home. He was saying goodbye to his favorite niece. As he spoke to her, he looked upset and distressed. After she left, my patient asked me to walk over and sit next to him. He had tears in eyes as he told me his reason for being sad. "Since being diagnosed with cancer, I have lost so much weight and look terrible". My niece won't sit within five feet of me and I need human contact.” I moved close to my patient and gave him a hug. With tears in both our eyes, he muttered, "Thank you." Something as simple as a hug can offer much comfort to a dying patient.