Patients in palliative care typically have an in-depth understanding of their illness and the realities of what may be a rather grim health diagnosis. As palliative care focuses on improving the quality of life that the patient has, the ill person will have a team of support, including nurses, caregivers, doctors, social workers, and family members, who rally around the person during this difficult time. When you go to visit someone who is palliative care, remember these essential dos and don'ts to ensure that the visit leaves both you and the patient feeling a bit better.
Do Express Your Feelings
It can be scary to see someone in palliative care, and it can be tempting to try to deny the situation by acting as though everything is alright or the same as it was before. However, the patient's reality has been transformed, and it's important to meet them where they are. Without making the visit about you necessarily, express how you feel. It's okay to express your regret that the person is in this situation. Express all the positive things that you have held back and make sure the person knows how much you care. Get out your feelings and express your love. When you make the first move to do this, you give the patient the chance to do the same.
Don't Verbalize Your Assumptions
When you see someone in palliative care, it doesn't mean that they have given up on life. In fact, according to The New England Journal of Medicine, palliative care can help prolong life while maintaining a better quality of life for the patient. If you find yourself making assumptions, don't state them. Instead, politely ask questions that will confirm or deny those assumptions.
Do Ask Open-Ended Questions
Someone who is in palliative care is likely to feel a little lonely and alienated even if they do have around-the-clock care. The more frequent company of friends may be sorely missed, and there are many things they may be longing to express. Ask the following open-ended questions to get the person talking in a way that's comfortable for them and allows them to lead where the conversation goes.
- What are the best and worst parts of what you've been experiencing lately?
- What do you wish people would say to you more often these days?
- Now that the way you're receiving care has changed, how do you feel about things?
- What are some things I could do this week to help you?
- What do you wish were different about the way that your care is being handled?
Finally, keep in mind that everyone in palliative care will have their own unique needs and preferences. Take your cue from the patient when it comes to what they most need. Someone who's down may need you to make them laugh a little, yet most want to know that they are heard and understood. Follow the patient's lead, respect their needs, and follow these tips for effective communication with someone in palliative care. If you have questions about your loved one's care or would like to know more about what to expect when you visit, ask a caregiver like those at Corner Home Medical.