End-of-life care has become to be more accepted as North Americans have begun to understand that dying is a part of life, and life is a part of death. Much can be done to ease the transition from life to death.
Many more of us want to die in our own homes, which can be facilitated by a health care team providing resources and support. There are many human resources and technology tools to assist you: home visits by palliative care teams, oxygen to ease breathing, hospital beds, devices such as walkers or commodes, special foods, appropriate nourishment, mouth care techniques. These are all designed to keep a care recipient and his/her family comfortable and more relaxed.
Suggestions for the caregiver:
- Keep a journal
- Keep a medical diary with dates of medical visits, treatments, treatment options, side effects, symptoms, medications
- Record visitors, or ask them to sign in to a guest book- If they bring treats or gifts you may want to thank them later. This works well if you are out while an alternate caregiver is present, too.
- Don't forget to mark the normal seasons and holidays - decorate and provide signs that you love them.
- Use any therapy which does not interfere or cause pain: music, art, literature, Therapeutic Touch, Reiki, massage, Body Talk,
The Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation has much information. They recognize that the caregiver needs to eat well, exercise, get rest, and look after yourself by getting respite care for your loved one.
Prevent burnout as a caregiver by seeking help when you don't think you need it, in preparation for when you do need it. The intake process for groups like hospice associations are not onerous, but you need to be prepared and develop a relationship with those who work in this field. They are your friends.
Read about the grief, grieving, and mourning process. Read about the health care issues involved. Seek solace in your faith, or a support community, i.e., hospice associations. Seek comforting rituals before and after the passing of a loved one. My mother died suddenly, and I found solace in writing her obituary and her eulogy as I looked back on our loves. My father was declared palliative eight months before he died and I began writing his funeral, obituary and eulogy while he was still alive. It was comforting to me. One forgets about the pains of childbirth as you view your child. Similarly, I began to forget about the anger and pain and dementia my father suffered as the tumour and dementia ate away at his emotions and he became angry with what was happening to him.
Go through photo albums with your loved ones. Ask them about their lives. Create a living remembrance using albums, video, digital images, or audiotapes.
Quotes by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (the guru of this field)Excellent Books
Kübler-Ross, E. (1997). Death: The final stage of growth. Carmichael, CA: Touchstone Books.
Kübler-Ross, E. (1998). The wheel of life: A memoir of living and dying. Carmichael, CA: Touchstone Books.
Kübler-Ross, E., & Kessler, D. (2005). On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss.
See also my Listmania on Amazon.ca