Tag Archives: Nursing

Caring for a dying relative

4 May

A coffin with a flower arrangement in a morgue

Caring for a dying relative

 

This is a very hard subject.  We don’t like to think about ourselves or our loved ones dying, but it is nevertheless an important subject.

 

If our loved one dies instantly, it is a huge shock, especially if we have not been expecting it.  If you have not had a conversation, then the next stage is commonly a state of shock before you can move into a more active mode of sorting out the arrangements.  This state of shock can last varying amounts of time, we are all different and how we deal with grief is different.

 

The death needs to be registered, the funeral arranged and then afterwards the estate can start to be sorted out.

 

If our loved one dies fairly quickly, this may give us an opportunity to say goodbye, to thank them for being in our lives and to let them know that they can go, if that is the right thing to say to them.  Saying thank you and goodbye is something we do for us, for them too of course, but letting them know that it is OK to go is something we do for them and a bit for us.  How we do that and whether we can do that will be different, sometimes we are not ready to let our loved ones go, especially if they are still young and we think that they have not finished their lives.  We can then have a little time to process the situation and try to emotionally deal with it.  And we cling to hope.

 

If our loved one dyes a lingering death, then we have that time to say thank you and goodbye and assure them that it is OK to go (assuming that it is).  We are upset and then process how we feel about it, however we cannot live on the adrenalin that this heightened state of anxiety will give us, so we get slightly used to it.  During this period of waiting, our loved one might rally, so we are given hope, perhaps only a glimmer or maybe a shining light, but we have hope.  And then they deteriorate and our hope dies.  If they have a fluctuating presentation, we can cycle through these emotions of despair and hope and we start living slightly on edge all the time, just waiting and not knowing.  This is very hard to watch as we see our loved one slowly slip away.

 

What happens if our loved one experiences a painful death?  Pain is something most of us fear.  We often wish we could trade places with a loved one in pain, but we can’t.  We can hold their hand, talk to them, feed them, play them music and lots of other things to try to comfort them and us, but we cannot take their pain.  Pain can be managed with drugs, but often it cannot be eliminated, watching a loved one in pain, whether or not they are dying is a horrible experience for both them and us.  I have been involved with many families when they are dealing with a loved one dying and a “peaceful” death is preferable, even though the death is often dreaded.

 

There is a finality with death, our relationship is forever changed, we can still love them, just not in person.  Death may be the time we stop and grieve, but if we are involved in sorting out their affairs, we may keep ourselves busy with that and not grieve and it is only when that is over that we do finally stop and grieve, which can come as a huge shock to anyone not expecting it, particularly since the death was some time before.  Greif takes time, but we can get over it and move on with our lives.

 

If during any of these stages we need help, friends and family may be around, but if we are faced with administration, legal or advocacy issues, I am here to help.  And I understand.

Health Issues

29 Oct
Elderly eighty plus year old woman in a wheel chair in a home setting with her husband.

Elderly eighty plus year old woman in a wheel chair in a home setting with her husband.

Health issues of the elderly

 

The first thing that I have to say is that I’m not a nurse, I’m a solicitor, but I’ve worked with the elderly for years now and in particular in respect of NHS Continuing Care claims for 8 years.  I often use the argument that whilst I may be a mother and have therefore wiped up both vomit & diarrhoea in that capacity, it does not make me an expert carer and that skilled professional care is required, not just the skill set I have.  I have immense respect for the professionals that provide day to day care for the sometimes very challenging healthcare needs.

 

What I have noticed though is a number of similarities in some cases, although I have to say that only some aspects have commonalities, I have never met two people who are the same.  Having said that, the elderly often have a generic breakdown of the body, which often takes the form of some kind of heart condition.  Their skin is nearly always fragile and their mobility is often impaired, which might just take the form of them being slightly stiff or difficulty getting out of a deep sofa or it might be more significant.

 

People often don’t understand is how devastating a chest infection or urinary tract infect (UTI) can be.  These infections appear to create a kind of toxicity in the body, which means that the individual appears to become physically very frail.  It also affects them mentally and they can appear confused or more confused than normal.  It is therefore the clearing of the infection via anti-biotics that appears to be a miracle cure for both old age and dementia, but it is in fact the resolution of the infection and toxicity that has taken place.

 

So in care homes, people have some paracetamol on prescription available to them or given regularly, in case they feel pain from the wear and tear that their bodies have had over a lifetime.  They also have an emollient for their skin, as their skin struggles to produce oil and struggles to heal well if it is damaged.  Both of these are a massive generalisation and every person is treated should always been given suitable treatments and it may not include these.

 

These days one of the key phrases that is used a lot is “person centred care”, which means that care is all about that one person and their individual needs and no-one should be treated like a generic older person.  It is therefore the things on prescription beyond that that are individualised to the healthcare needs of that person, although all of the above would be individualised, but are nevertheless commonly found.