Death is a natural stage in an aging society and may be associated with chronic conditions such as cancer, heart failure, chronic obstructive airway disease and the complications of dementia illness. A large number of seniors will need end-of-life care over a long period of time.
Countries will need the expertise to address complex issues that deal with end of life for diverse populations and Aboriginal peoples.The burden of middle-aged people caring for dying parents is becoming more prevalent and their needs should be addressed as well.
Myths & Misconceptions of Dying
Seniors don’t need end-of-life care as they are going to die anyway.
Many seniors would prefer to continue living even if they have a terminal illness. They will need help with self-care, emotional support, nutrition and pain control.
Most seniors die in long-term care facilities and already receive end-of-life care .
Only one third of seniors die each year in long-term care facilities. Even health care workers in palliative care and nursing homes require education on stress management and physiological impacts.
Seniors are prepared for death.
Many seniors may be in denial, indecisive and ambivalent. This can interfere with implementation of directives such as what health care they want.
Seniors die of old age.
Aging itself does not cause death. They may die from heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases and strokes.
Nothing can be done for seniors who are dying.
Many things can be done including informing seniors of their rights, support for family members and exploring end-of-life decisions. Much can be done to enhance the quality of life for seniors and their loved ones.
Improving End Of Life
End-of-life care is an integral part of dying. The following can offer tips so your loved one can have a kind and gentle death.
Comfort to patient
Medication needs to be available to control pain and other treatable symptoms.
Optimize physical functions and timely care.
Eliminate fear and anxiety.
The patient and family members should be able to choose the use of life-sustaining treatments in the last days of life.
Ask permission to do something, respect freedom of choice and encourage them to make difficult decisions.
Support needs are different for everyone including the patient and family.
The senior may make decisions that are not in their own best interest, but instead protect their family from emotional or financial pressures.
Issues to consider
Treatment of physical and emotional symptoms.
Support of function and autonomy.
Advance care planning, patient and family satisfaction, global quality of life.
Family burden, survival time, health care and social service provider continuity.
Provide supportive environment to strengthen relationships.
Opportunities for social contact.
Encourage opportunities for life review and reminiscence about old times.
Let them discuss their true feelings, dreams, fears, desires and expectations.
Care is consistent with cultural values and beliefs.
Provide access to spiritual guidance and practices.
Some cultures do not promote individualism and there the individual may leave decision-making in the hands of others.
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