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Ensure Dignity and Comfort for Your Loved Ones with End of Life Planning

by M Asim

End of life care is provided to people in their final days, weeks, or months of life. The goal of end of life care is to ensure that the person’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs are met and that they can die with dignity and without pain. In the UK, a team of healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, and social workers work together to create a tailored care plan for individuals who require it. The end of life care plan may include pain relief, symptom management, emotional and spiritual support, and practical help with tasks such as washing and dressing.  

According to the UK Parliament POST, the demand for palliative and end of life care is rising as people live longer and have increasingly complex needs. Unfortunately, an estimated 100,000 people in the UK who could benefit from palliative care die without receiving it each year. With the UK’s population ageing, in England and Wales, the demand for palliative care is expected to increase by 25% to 47% by 2040. 

What’s an End of Life Care Pathway? 

End of life care pathway is the end of life planning that outlines the steps required to ensure a patient’s comfort towards the end of their life. As a professional, you may be involved in completing one. Here’s an overview of the five steps involved: 

Step 1: Discussion 

Initiate a conversation about your patient’s end of life care. Talk to them, their family, and friends to ensure everyone knows what to expect and who will make decisions. 

Step 2: Assessment, Plan, and Review 

Understand your patient’s medical needs and wishes. Consider cultural or religious preferences, such as whether the patient wants at-home care or something personally significant. 

Step 3: Coordination of Care 

Plan to have the right professionals, such as nurses, care assistants, or doctors, available to meet your patient’s unique needs. 

Step 4: Delivery 

Put the plan into action and provide care wherever is safest and closest to the patient’s wishes, always ensuring consent. 

Step 5: Final Days 

Know what to expect during the final days of life to provide comfort and alleviate stress for the patient and their loved ones. 

What are the principles of end of life care? 

When developing an end-of-life care plan, several crucial considerations must be remembered. These include: 

  1. Patient’s individuality: Customised end-of-life care plans are essential as every patient has unique values, preferences, and beliefs. 
  1. Beliefs and Preferences: When designing an end-of-life care plan, a patient’s cultural and religious beliefs, as well as their location preferences, should be considered. 
  1. Sensitive Care: End of life care can be sensitive and emotional for patients and their families. It’s important to provide care sensitive to the patient’s emotional needs and respect their dignity and privacy. 
  1. Consent: Obtaining consent from the patient or their representative is essential for end of life care. This involves ensuring the patient understands their options and can make decisions. 
  1. Communication: Effective communication among healthcare professionals, patients, and their families is crucial to ensure coordinated care and respect for the patient’s wishes. 

What are the signs of someone dying? 

When someone is close to dying, sure signs may indicate the end is near. These signs can vary from person to person, but some common ones include: 

  1. Decreased appetite and thirst 
  1. Increased sleepiness and fatigue 
  1. Changes in breathing, such as shallow or irregular breathing 
  1. Changes in skin colour and temperature, such as pallor or coolness 
  1. Disorientation or confusion 
  1. Restlessness or agitation 
  1. Decreased urine output 

It’s important to note that these signs are not always present, and some people may not show any signs. Additionally, it’s important to always keep in touch with healthcare providers for personalised guidance and support during this time.  

Caring for someone at the end of life is challenging and taxing on everyone involved. However, by recognising the signs and preparing the family members and loved ones, caregivers can ensure they offer the best possible support to the patient and their families. 

Conclusion 

End of life planning is crucial for ensuring comfort and dignity, and it’s a human right. The demand for palliative and end of life care is increasing, and we must provide the best possible care. The end of life care pathway offers a structured approach. At the same time, principles like individuality and communication ensure sensitive care. Identifying signs of dying is vital to prepare patients and loved ones. Investing in professional end of life care is crucial for people to die with dignity and without pain. 

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