Lay caregivers are alone most of the time with their patient. It is vital that the caregiver is confident and competent with comfort strategies. Here are seven comforting tips for an end-of-life situation that lay caregivers should be taught and understood before taking on any care responsibilities.
Give pain and other symptom control medications
Caregivers must be instructed in the proper administration and dosing of pain and other medications at scheduled times to keep the patient as comfortable as possible. Caregivers should also be taught how to administer rescue medications to be given between long-acting medications. If current regimens are not meeting the patient’s comfort at home, a hospice nurse should be contacted to arrange changes in dose or medication to ensure the patient’s comfort at all times.
Keep the patient clean and dry
Bed linens, pillows, and clothing should be kept clean and dry at all times to promote the patient’s comfort and dignity as well as preventing ulcers. If the patient prefers, linens can be freshened with powder or light perfume to enhance the sense of cleanliness.
Maintain the patient’s privacy and dignity
A lay caregiver may have many physical responsibilities to the patient, but it is essential to respect the patient’s privacy as much as possible. Keeping a patient’s private parts covered with a towel and asking guests to leave while a patient uses the restroom or receives bath care will ensure the patient’s dignity and emotional comfort.
Care for mouth and lips
Patients with shortness of breath will breathe out their mouth leading to dry lips. Caregivers must brush teeth and rinse the mouth regularly as well as apply moisturizer to a patient’s lips. A cold rag on a patient’s teeth can help with mouth comfort as well.
Moisten dry eyes
When the body weakens, the eyelids become more relaxed, and people will sleep with their eyes open and rarely blink. Never direct breeze from fans, heat, or air conditioning toward a patient’s open eyes. Application of artificial tears every two to four hours will give a patient gentle comfort.
Reposition and turn
As disease advances and bodies weaken, it becomes more difficult for patients to move and turn themselves. Caregivers should be taught to use a draw sheet for ease and comfort when repositioning.
Monitor bowel movements
Caregivers must remember that even though patients nearing the end of life eat very little, their bodies still make waste. Keeping track of the frequency of bowel movements and contacting the nurse if the patient has not had a bowel movement in three days is vital to the patient’s overall comfort.
As a caregiver, seeing a patient pass can be a difficult and emotional time. Following these seven tips can help ensure the patient’s last days are spent in comfort and relaxation. Do you have a suggestion to share? Comment below and don’t forget, sharing is caring!