Supporting Patients in Hospice: How to Stay Positive
November 24 2020
How Addressing Their Spiritual and Emotional Needs Can Help to Uplift Them During this Difficult Time
Hospice care is for patients who are nearing the end of their life. Hospice ends life saving treatments and focuses solely on maximizing the comfort levels of the patient. The hospice care team provides comfort care, as well as attends to the patient’s psychological, social and spiritual needs. Hospice also provides family members with counseling, practical support and respite care.
But beyond the comfort that hospice care brings through things like pain relief medications, it can sometimes be hard for patients and their families to remain positive during this time. While a person’s end of life is generally considered a sad time, it can also be filled with special moments. It is important to note that everyone grieves differently and that you should take into account the wants and needs of your patient. Some may use this time to quietly reflect back on their life, while others may use the time to live in the moment with friends and family.
There are a few ways that you can support your hospice patients to help them find peace and feel more positive about this time. This support comes through addressing their spiritual and emotional needs as well as the emotional needs of their family. By helping them through negative feelings, they can all feel more positive about what is to come.
Supporting Their Spiritual Needs
If they are religious or spiritual, encourage them to rely on their faith. This is a time that they can reflect on their values and beliefs, finding comfort in knowing better days are ahead. Some patients may also feel conflicted about their faith. Encourage them to speak with their spiritual advisor or clergy to work through any negative feelings they may have or to share in a religious tradition they value. Your patient may also find value in their relationships and how people will remember them. Share your thoughts or encourage family members and friends to do so. By supporting your patient’s spiritual needs, it can help lift them up and feel more positive about the end of this life.
Supporting Emotional Needs
Hospice is an emotionally turbulent time for your patient. They may feel angry, depressed, resigned or even at peace with what is to come. You can provide emotional support by just listening to them and being present. Even just your physical presence can be soothing. Allowing a person to talk about their feelings can help them release anxiety, sadness and anger, and thus lead to more positive feelings about this part of their life cycle. If you can tell they are upset or depressed but don’t want to talk, give gentle encouragement but don’t push it, or ask if they would like to speak with the social worker or counselor.
Saying goodbye is an important part of the end of a person’s life and can help them find peace. Ask your patient if they would like assistance arranging for family and friends to visit or call to help them say their final goodbyes. Some patients may want something more concrete such as a video or letter that can be preserved. Others entering hospice with enough energy may want a celebration of life party. However your patient chooses to say their goodbyes, it is important to support their needs and wants. When they feel content about their goodbyes, it can help them feel more optimistic and at peace with the end of their life.
If your patient feels they need to make amends, ask if they would like for you to arrange a meeting or call with the person they need to make amends with. Having the perspective of not much time left can make it easier for patients or their family member or friend to say “I’m sorry.” Making amends can help clear a patient’s conscience, leaving them feeling more positive.
Supporting the Patient’s Family
How a patient’s family feels can affect how your patient feels. So, it is important that you help family members address their emotional and spiritual needs as well through the support of counselors or a spiritual advisor. Remember, everyone grieves differently and you may even have to remind your patient of that if there is a family member whose negative feelings continue to go unreconciled, affecting your patient.
While the end of a person’s life can be sad, it can also be a time of reflection and special moments. By addressing the spiritual and emotional needs of your patient, you can help them feel more positive about this part of their life cycle. And by supporting the family, you can ensure that the patient has as positive experience with hospice as possible.