Contemplating the final days of life can be a depressing if not taboo subject for some. Yet it’s an important issue and one worth facing sooner rather than later according to SweetTree Home Care Services, experts in palliative care
For many people living with a diagnosis of dementia, the daily challenges can be enough to contend with. However, it’s important to start thinking about the type of care you would like in the future, especially the care you would like to receive towards the end of your life.
Michael Beresford is Learning & Development Manager for SweetTree Home Care Services (www.sweettree.co.uk) and he passionately believes that end-of-life care planning is hugely important. Michael knows from both professional and personal experience that planning ahead is key in order to obtain the type of care you would like to receive at the end. You might wish to consider where you would like to be cared for during your final days. Many people usually prefer to remain at home, so that they can live their final days in a comfortable and familiar environment, surrounded by loved ones. In many cases, this is usually possible provided the appropriate strategy and support system have been implemented.
Here, Michael reveals how he had the privilege of caring for his late grandfather in his final days, and the steps he took in order to ensure that his grandfather received the care required to keep him comfortable…
‘For years I have cared for many people at the end of their life and this has always given me a feeling of great fulfillment. It’s rewarding for me to know that I was able to provide families with the support they needed during this extremely difficult time. However, I had never imagined that one day I would have the privilege of caring for my own grandfather.
‘When I arrived back home, the situation was difficult at first, as my family had limited knowledge in caring for someone. Of course this is a scenario that many families face and they often don’t know where to seek help.
‘I knew exactly what to do. I felt empowered that I would be able to relieve some of the stress. But there were still challenges. It was Christmas Eve and I would not be able to set up everything needed immediately.
‘Before doing anything, I spoke to my grandpa about how he felt and what he wanted. He made it clear that he didn’t want to go into hospital. In order to respect his wishes, I knew that several changes would need to be made. I discussed what I could do to keep him comfortable and at home, and then got to work over next few days arranging everything he needed.
‘That night I contacted the out of hours team and a doctor visited to prescribe antibiotics for an obvious chest infection. Over the next couple of days, I trained my family in basic moving and handling techniques and arranged for a profiling bed with an air mattress to be delivered. This would help keep him comfortable and prevent pressure sores. We removed unnecessary furniture and clutter from the room to make it easier for friends and family to visit him. Music and family had always been a very important part of his life, so we brought pictures of our grandmother and our family into the room so that he could see them from his bed and had his favourite classical music playing gently in the background. Over the coming weeks we all were able to spend quality time with him. As a family, we were able to ensure that he stayed at home. He died at home tucked up in his bed, pain-free, with his family at his bedside and my mum holding his hand.
‘This experience is my greatest life achievement. I have now witnessed end-of-life care from both sides – from a personal and a carer’s perspective. This experience gives me the passion to ensure that others receive the best possible care at the end of their lives.
‘My advice for those caring for a loved one who is reaching the end of their life is to seek help and advice from their GP or professional careworker to ensure the person is comfortable. I would also recommend asking the person what care they would like and for all family members to be involved in the decision-making process.
‘Talking to your loved one sooner rather than later will mean you’ll be able to carry out the appropriate steps in order to follow their wishes. It’s worth noting that they should have received an assessment from their GP and their details should be added into a palliative care register.
‘I’d strongly recommend making an advance care plan, which allows you to have control over your care and the type of care you’d like to receive at the end of your life. While it’s clearly a sensitive subject, it’s worth starting the conversation as soon as possible with family, and thinking about where you’d like to receive care. It’s important to make sure your loved ones know what your wishes are, so that they can ensure you receive the care you would like. Speak to a healthcare professional or GP for further advice.’