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Spotlight on Dying Well

To mark Dying Awareness Week, Four Seasons Health Care are hosting three guest blogs from our nurse experts about three important themes for residents who live within care homes: Advance Care Planning, Symptom Management and Dying Well.

Our third and final blog comes today from Craig Priestley who is our Nurse of the Year as well as Clinical Lead at Cameron House Care Home in England.

In his blog Craig discusses Dying Well:

Dying Matters……’Let’s talk about it’.... as Clinical Lead of Cameron House, I’d like to share with you my thoughts, ideas and experiences about helping older people in care homes to die well. It might seem strange, but one of our greatest responsibilities, and privileges, is supporting people to have a good death. This can happen if residents and their families are supported throughout the process. It also requires open communication between our care teams, multidisciplinary support and the resident and their family members. Achieving a person-centred, pain free and dignified death that involves the resident, family and those most close to them is at the heart and central to everything we do as nurses.

Through the utilisation of Four Seasons Health Care’s Quality of Life Programme and the Dementia Care Framework, our nurses at Cameron House are supported to deliver quality end of life care. These systems lay the foundation in delivering personalised care which is continuously updated and reflective of a person’s ever-changing condition. Of course care is more than just meeting the physical needs of our residents. Our care also focuses on psychological, social and spiritual wellbeing.

Having worked within Four Seasons Health Care for over 10 years, in a variety of roles, being with someone when they die is something I have had to learn to deal with both personally and professionally. The resident-nurse relationship within care homes I experienced is different to that which I experienced in hospitals. I think this is because in hospitals the patients’ stays are usually shorter. At Cameron House, our residents live with us for a longer period of time. We get to know the individual personally and when death occurs it can be emotional and difficult for colleagues too as attachment has occurred. This attachment isn’t negative – it is a positive thing because we become a member of that resident’s extended family during the end of their life.

From my experience the key to ‘dying well’ is open and shared communication, keeping both the family and resident up-dated every step of the journey. Communication can take many forms depending on what is important to the resident, for example; discussing symptom control, supporting psychological needs or up holding spiritual needs. At Cameron House, we encourage our family members to spend as much time with their loved ones at possible. At the end of life we, like all our FSHC care homes, support our family members to stay overnight. Recognition that palliative and end of life care involves more than the person who is dying is so important and we should always take the time out to contact the family after the death of their loved one. Palliative care does not conclude when the resident passes away. Practically, it is helpful to support family members with bereavement support, time to take a loved one’s belongings from their old room and advice on registering the death. These processes can help the person to understand that they are not alone.

From a professional perspective, losing a resident is never easy. Depending on the circumstances you may experience a range of emotions and thoughts but this is entirely normal. If you find yourself becoming distressed, try to remove yourself from the situation safely, quickly and professionally. It is important to feel supported in your workplace and to also have the opportunity to reflect on how events have affected you professionally and personally. In the past, I have found debrief sessions or clinical supervisions with more experienced people can help a lot.

I leave you with this thought “as nurses, we touch many lives…families and residents will always remember that one nurse who made a difference to them or their loved one.”

Date published: 15 September 2017

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