As Benjamin Franklin noted, death is one of the only certainties in this life. However, there are many uncertainties, anxieties, and fears about dying. Many people fear the unknown and others loss of independence and dignity. While we can’t dispel all fears that center on end of life, we can address dignity and independence.
As seniors pass, it is possible to respect their wishes by providing high-quality care from the comfort of home. Many seniors would prefer to remain at home because it is surrounded by memories of their life and love from their family. Hospice facilities can seem cold and sterile. But dying at home presents its own challenges. In this post, we will discuss how caregivers and family members can help seniors maintain dignity at the end of their life when receiving care at home.
Speak Directly to the Senior
At the end of a senior’s life, they may experience a number of different health challenges. One common challenge is loss of cognitive function. Seniors may not be able to fully understand the changes of aging or their own impending passing. Seniors may also no longer be responsive. However, caregivers and healthcare professionals should never speak about the client as if they aren’t in the room.
Whenever you are in the room with a client, you should introduce yourself when you meet them. You should also address them directly and explain exactly what you are going to do. You may not know whether a senior can hear you or understand you, but that doesn’t matter. Out of respect and professionalism, you should speak directly to the client when you are in the same room.
Maintain Respectful Communication
In addition to talking to a client when you are in the same room, you should also remember to use respectful communication. For example, avoid jargon or slang that a client would not understand. Likewise, don’t speak down to your client. This type of communication can patronize a senior.
You should answer all questions to the best of your ability. These questions may come from the client themselves or from their family members. If the client can communicate with you, make sure you listen carefully to verbal and non-verbal communication. By listening carefully, you can better understand your client’s concerns and try to address them.
You should never joke or make light of a senior’s condition — even if you are not in the same room as them. Instead, you should always display empathy and patience.
At the end of a senior’s life, they may not be able to care for themselves. That means that they may need someone to bathe them, change their diapers, or groom them. When providing personal care, ensure that a senior maintains their privacy by keeping their body covered except for the section of the body you are cleaning or caring for.
For example, if you are washing their chest, only reveal their chest. Then, cover the chest if you are going to clean another area of the body. You can use a towel, blanket, or sheet to help you provide privacy to a senior and be discreet as you provide care.
Create a Calm Environment
During someone’s final hours, you can ensure a calm and comfortable atmosphere in the home. Consider playing soft music or lighting a candle. This can promote relaxation and ease anxiety. You may also dim the lights if possible and avoid loud noises or disruptions that may come from phones or televisions. This can help both the senior and their family member through a difficult transition.
You can also discuss with a senior’s family about their loved one’s preferences. Maybe they have a specific composer that they like or a specific scent.
Use a Gentle Touch
When providing care for a senior, you should also use a gentle touch. While it may require a lot of physical exertion to perform some tasks, like rolling a client onto their side, you should always be as gentle as possible. Treat them how you would want to be treated. Try to make sure that your nails or jewelry don’t scratch them.
You can also make sure a senior is comfortable by providing pillows, clean linens, and a blanket. Make sure they are not too warm and not too cold. Even if seniors aren’t responsive, a gentle touch can help them remain as comfortable as possible and have a peaceful passing.
Keep the Mouth Moist
During the dying process, a senior may experience dehydration. A dry mouth and lips can be very uncomfortable. You can help relieve this discomfort by moistening a senior’s mouth using a moist sponge or cotton swabs. The type of fluid can include water, coffee, tea, soda, or other fluids. You should apply moisture every 1 or 2 hours. You can also apply petroleum jelly to their lips.
Maintaining moisture can also help reduce the risk of infection or sores. However, you should still monitor a senior for signs of redness, swelling, bleeding, pain, or dryness. If you do notice any of these changes, you should notify a healthcare professional.
If a senior was religious throughout their lifetime, they may have certain preferences related to their death. For example, a senior who is Muslim may want to pass away while facing Mecca. A senior who is Mormon may want to be buried in specific religious clothing. As appropriate, coordinate with a senior and their family members to ensure that religious needs and wants are being addressed.
At Caring Senior Service, our caregivers receive specialized training to assist seniors at the end of their lives. We can provide care within homes or even at hospice facilities to ensure a comfortable and respectful passing. To learn more about how we can help seniors maintain their dignity at every stage of their lives, reach out to our team of experts.