Preparing for a good death
This is a quote from a GP from the Medical Observer magazine on the 18 of May of 2015:
“I look after people who are dying all the time. People go all funny in the head when relatives die. In my experience it is rarely the person who is dying that feels distressed. Is the person watching them that then respond to how they’re feeling by projecting their distress onto the dying individual, which leads them to decide that the best way to alleviate their own suffering is to hasten the death of the other person so that they don’t have to watch. How selfish! No one said death had to be fun, but it can be. When someone in the hospital has a good death, you hear laughter coming from the room. And when it’s a bad death, it’s a complaint, often well after the fact.”
What does having a good death mean? What important information should be written down?
I come from the old Anglo-Saxon background and “a good death” was, I think from the Irish, they used to have the person that passed away in the home, often in England too, in the UK, pass away in the home with their family around them even the young ones, the babies, everyone was there. And then when the person passed away of course they had the wake when everyone drank to their health or whatever and had a good time.
But the good death means you do it in your own way, in your own time, and that’s something important that we can do too. If we want to have our own funeral service or if we want to decide how things will be if we’re having a service we can write down the music, who we’d especially like invited, who we might want to conduct it or maybe who we don’t want to have there, and even the music. And in a person’s end of life, the person might choose their own CDs that they’d like to have.
What are the 3 most important things to remember at the end of life stage?
There are 3 main points and the first one is probably the physical one, which means that the patient or the person usually prefers not to be alone but they might ask that you leave them. Otherwise as a nurse you might have 2 at a time, you have a roster or depending if the patient wants you all there or just sharing a meal. The physical one is the touching, too. Some people need to be touched and they’ll actually ask for a hug or something. It’s up to the family, they know their person. Also some might want to see the children, in some cultures the children come to say their last goodbye. But if a person doesn’t wish to be there that’s fine, too.
Then there’s the emotional, psychological one. Your last chance to say anything that you might need to say, to reassure them that you love them or respect them or whatever is appropriate. And even if you can’t say anything you just sit there and hold their hand or whatever feels appropriate for you.
Also the other one is a spiritual, cultural one. Some families have things they do at the end of their lifetimes and often the nurse will ask, “Do you need somebody to come?” Now they have chaplains of all faiths in the hospitals and nursing homes, and if you have your own person that’s quite alright for them to come in and you’ll be given privacy. If you want to play music or something special, or have a little ceremony for yourself, whatever, it’s what you feel is right for your person. You know what they ask for, and do pick up any little signs that they might have a request. It might even be a really good coffee from a really good coffee shop, something they can share or that type of thing. They will generally let you know.
If they choose not to be alone, they’ll wait until you need to go to the bathroom and they’ll pass away then. And that’s their choice too.
But they will let you know, generally, if you are aware and watchful.
More information on Hope Alexander
I originally trained as a primary school teacher and my interests are in English and also in effective communication. Then when I was having chemotherapy I did a masters in Public Health. I’ve actually got about 6 tertiary qualifications. But I’m not medically trained but my masters in Public Health gave me a good background.
I’ve been a Health Consumer Representative for many years and also an advocate for people who have no voice, for people who their English might not be as good as it could be or they’re ill or distressed or all of the above. And I feel I can help in some way giving back to the community.
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