By Daniel Lewis
In the final phase of a terminal disease, caregiving priorities begin to change. Rather than focus on curative measures, the caregiver has to start emphasizing palliative care in order to relieve symptoms, pain and emotional distress. Making sure that the final months of an aging parent or relative’s life are as comfortable as possible can be especially challenging. Here are a few tips to help make last stage caregiving less painful for you and your loved one.
Understanding What Last Stage Care is All About
One of the hardest parts of “being there” for a caregiver is acknowledging that there’s no coming back. No magic cure will save your elder from cancer or dementia, for example. The best thing that you, as a caregiver, can do is to make peace with the thought that, at some point, your loved one will pass away. Yet, even if they only have a few months or days to live, it’s vital to provide them with the best possible care.
It’s simply not possible for a family caregiver to be a “lone wolf” during this time. Trying to care for someone on your own at this point can actually do more harm than good. Thankfully, medication and complex treatments facilitated by hospice providers and palliative care specialists are available to ease physical pain and other discomforts, such as nausea, constipation or shortness of breath.
Identifying the Type of Care Needed
There’s no starting point for beginning end-of-life care, as this typically varies from individual to individual. For example, patients struggling with Alzheimer’s disease go through multiple stages over many years. They usually come in the doctor’s office perfectly cogent; they’re being explained what the illness will do to them and then they’re offered advice on care options. It could be years before the full impact of the illness is felt or it becomes a life-limiting condition.
While there’s no magical recipe to ease the journey, it is still important to have a conversation with your loved one and make sure they understand what steps you are taking to make them feel better. Believe it or not, this is the right approach. You wouldn’t want to give them false hope.
Caregiver and Patient Needs
Practical assistance and care are extremely important in patients with terminal diseases. The caregiver must make sure that the patient’s needs are being addressed. If they can’t walk, sit, eat or talk anymore, the caregiver must be prepared to deal with these issues and reach out for assistance, if need be. It is equally important to make sure that your parent or relative feels comfortable, regardless of their situation. Helping them maintain a sense of dignity is critical. Their memory and cognitive functions may be impacted, or their communication skills may be limited, but this doesn’t mean that they’re no longer able to feel.
Planning for End-of-Life
Nobody is truly prepared to lose a loved one to a terminal disease or old age. However, this is part of the circle of life. Take the time to talk to family members about saying your goodbyes. Work on making peace with the inevitable. And, begin making final arrangements for your loved one, as difficult as it may be.
Knowing that you made your loved one feel loved during the last stages of life can make letting go just a little easier for everyone.
Daniel Lewis writes about health and fitness-related issues. He has a deep knowledge of the field and is a regular contributor to http://www.foresthc.com/, which focuses on elder care homes and retirement villages in the UK.