Blogging End of Life Rituals: How Nurses Can Help Patients
Death is mysterious. It is our duty to provide as much information as possible to our patients.
I work with an elderly population, and in the process, spend a lot of time answering questions about hospice, home care, palliative care, and advance directives. Most nurses are now in their 40s, and these are issues that are beginning to impact them personally as their own parents enter their 70s and 80s. Suddenly, we all need information about Medicare, living wills, and Medicare formularies. Questions that we’ve been answering for our patients take on a whole new dimension when it’s our own family members that are asking them.
If you’re interested in becoming culturally literate and need to know about the customs and rituals surrounding death in many of the world’s religions, check www.impactednurse.com and type “death rites” in the search. In most cases, it explains what to do when death is imminent, how death is handled, and any special issues to be considered. I once made a home visit in order to sign a death certificate and was thrust into the middle of a family from a very different religious background. Their emotional struggle could have been better served had I first understood what they needed. This information would have enabled me to handle the situation more sensitively.
On the other hand, if you’re a nurse who deals with terminally ill patients, you may need to be able to tell the family what signs to look for as their loved one nears the end. We all develop an instinct, but for something more concrete you can refer to www.deathmaiden.blogspot.com. Death is mysterious at best, and it’s our duty to empower our patients by providing as much information as we can.
Finally, if you’re not sure whether a patient needs home care or hospice, check www.hospiceblog.blogspot.com/
2006/01/hospice-or-home-health.html. It does a great job of explaining the role of hospice and why hospice nurses can make a significant difference in patient care. Physicians may consider discontinuing treatment to be giving up, so it may be a nurse that needs to gently suggest that comfort care may be what’s called for. Familiarize yourself with the difference so you can explain it to others when they ask.
Christine Contillo RN, BSN, has worked as a nurse since 1979, and has written extensively for various nursing publications as well as the New York Times.
This article is from workingnurse.com.