Seven Ways to Maintain Patient Dignity at End of Life
One of the greatest fears people have about dying is losing their sense of dignity and independence. Fortunately, the hospice care philosophy is built around respecting the patient and their wishes, providing each individual with the highest quality of life for however many days they have remaining. Maintaining patient dignity at end of life is paramount.
The most important thing that you can do to help a patient maintain dignity at end of life is to remember you are caring for an individual with unique needs, experiences, and desires. Everyone wants to be treated with respect. Having the added support of hospice can help increase patient dignity by ensuring the patient receives the respectful clinical, personal, emotional, and spiritual care that they need.
How to Maintain Dignity in Hospice
When caring for an individual at end of life, keep the following seven ideas in mind to maintain patient dignity in hospice:
- Speak to the patient directly. Introduce yourself to the patient when you meet them. Never speak about a patient in the third person if they are in the room.
- Speak respectfully to and about the patient. Speak without jargon and in terms that a patient can understand. At the same time, do not patronize or speak down to a patient. Practice patience and empathy. Do not make jokes about the patient even if you think they are out of earshot. Answer patients honestly to build trust and take time to listen to their concerns.
- Ask how the patient would like to be cared for. For example, when brushing a patient’s hair, ask how they like their hair parted. Explain what you will be doing before you do it – especially if you will be touching the patient. Remember that what is routine for you may be a new experience for the patient.
- Protect the patient’s physical privacy. Maintain patient dignity by ensuring they remain covered while providing care. When giving a bath, keep the patient covered with a blanket or towel, uncovering only the section of the body you are currently washing.
- Protect the patient’s personal information. Do not gossip or share personal information about the patient or family beyond what is necessary for members of the care team. It is a privilege to be invited into a patient’s life.
- Assist the patient with personal grooming. Go beyond the basics to help patients retain pride in their appearance. Trim whiskers, brush the patient’s hair, help the patient get dressed. For individuals who found great satisfaction in their sense of style throughout their lives, pride in appearance is essential to their self-respect.
- Create a respectful atmosphere. Maintain patient dignity at end of life by establishing a peaceful atmosphere in their final hours. Keep the patient comfortable. Play soft music to set the mood. Ensure the patient’s religious needs are being met. Continue to speak to the patient even if they are no longer responsive. Assume they can still hear you as the sense of hearing is one of the last senses to go.
In its simplest form, maintaining patient dignity boils down to treating the individuals in your care the way you would like to be treated. When patients are treated with respect, it creates a greater sense of trust and well-being.
At Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care, we pride ourselves in providing patients with the highest quality of life possible. For more information on hospice and how it can benefit terminally ill individuals, please call us at 1-888-564-3405.
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