Comfort care is an essential part of hospice palliative care. It’s a complimentary kind of care that helps or soothes a person who is dying. The goal of comfort care, is just that, is to prevent or relieve suffering as much as possible while respecting a dying individual’s wishes. Learn about comfort care during end of life in this week's Changing Lives Podcast.
About Hospice Quinte
Hospice Quinte provides individuals, their families, and caregivers with compassionate end of life care, by attending to their physical, psychosocial, and practical needs, and offering empathetic care to those who are grieving through visiting hospice services and support groups. All Hospice Quinte programs and services are provided by compassionate, well-trained volunteers and staff at no charge to the individual or their family.
Hospice Quinte serves a population of over 102,000 in Quinte West, Belleville, Deseronto, Tyendinaga Township and the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. To find out more visit HospiceQuinte.ca.Support the show
Comfort care is an essential part of hospice palliative care. It’s a complimentary kind of care that helps or soothes a person who is dying. The goal of comfort care, is just that, is to prevent or relieve suffering as much as possible while respecting a dying individual’s wishes.
In most cases, people who are experiencing end of life require care in four areas—physical comfort, mental and emotional needs, spiritual issues, and practical medical care tasks. There are several different ways you can provide additional comfort and soothing to a loved one who is dying, but always remember to check with the individual’s health care team first to make sure it is appropriate.
Discomfort can come from a variety of problems and in many forms. For example, a palliative patient might be uncomfortable because of pain, breathing problems, skin irritation, digestive problems, temperature sensitivity or even fatigue.
A recent study that focused on integrating massage therapy into hospice palliative care found significant changes in pain, anxiety, relaxation and the inner peace of patients. Massage therapy helped to decrease both pain intensity and anxiety while increasing the patients’ sense of relaxation and inner peace.
Shortness of breath or general difficulty of breathing is a common experience at the end of life. For the palliative patient, worrying about getting out the next breath might make it hard for important conversations or connections with loved ones to happen. Try elevating the head of the bed, opening a window, using a vaporizer, or having a fan circulating air throughout the room.
Music therapy is another alternative treatment that can be used to provide soothing. Studies show that hospice palliative care patients who listen to music in their rooms as part of their treatment report feeling an improvement in both their emotional and physical wellbeing. These patients also showed a decrease in requests for opioid-based medications. The idea is that music helps palliative patients better cope with symptoms of pain and stress and improve their overall moods. Listening to music can also evoke memories of happy times for individuals that can be shared.
Skin problems are another common issue with individuals at the end of life. As we all age, our skin becomes drier and more fragile naturally, so it is important to take extra care with the skin of someone who is terminally ill. Gently applying an alcohol-free skin cream is best to relieve dry skin. Dryness on parts of the face, such as the lips or eyes, might also be an issue. You can use a gentle lip balm on dry lips and place a damp cloth over closed eyes to help relieve dryness. Sitting or lying in one position puts pressure on sensitive skin, which can result in painful bed sores. Gently turning the patient from their sides to their back every few hours can help prevent bed sores. Placing a foam pad under areas prone to bed sores, like heels and elbows, is another good way to help reduce pressure.
Aromatherapy can help soothe the senses, create tranquility and transport a palliative patient from the sterility of their surroundings into another space entirely. Essential oils, lotions or a spray of rosewater can all be beneficial to a palliative patient.
Nausea, vomiting, constipation, and loss of appetite are common digestive issues that might be experienced during end of life. The causes and treatments for these symptoms can vary, so it’s important to discuss digestive issues with a doctor or nurse. There are certain medications that can be used to control nausea or vomiting or relieve constipation. If a palliative patient is feeling well enough to eat, but is experiencing fatigue, you can assist with feeding them. If loss of appetite is an issue, try gently encouraging eating soft foods, liquid meals or their favorite foods in small amounts. Multiple smaller meals throughout the day rather than three big ones, might also be more suitable for some individuals, but never force a person to eat.
Something else to consider is that people who are experiencing end of life might not be able to verbally communicate that they are too hot or too cold, so watch for clues. Someone who is too warm might repeatedly try to remove a blanket, while a person who is hunching their shoulders or shivering are showing signs of being cold.
Try to set the kind of mood that is most comforting for the individual. What have they always enjoyed? Some people are the life of the party, so it would be natural to want to be surrounded by family and friends during their end of life. Others might prefer spending quiet moments, so only having 1 or 2 visitors at a time might make them more comfortable.
Since 1985, Hospice Quinte has been changing the lives of the terminally ill, their families, and the bereaved for the better by offering support and companionship through visiting hospice services and support groups. All Hospice Quinte services are provided at no charge by compassionate and well-trained volunteers and staff.
Our service area includes Belleville, Quinte West, Deseronto, Tyendinaga Township and the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.
For more information about Hospice Quinte’s programs and services, be sure to visit our website at HospiceQuinte.ca.