Many people have asked me how we look after the patients who are dying. We, as nurses see many stages of various palliative conditions. Conditions sent to expire.
Some patients are well enough to continue about their daily life with the illness lingering over them like a grey cloud.
Some are going through treatment and riding the roller coaster of side effects that comes with it.
Some are deteriorating rapidly and unpredictably. Some patients are already too poorly for us to have known them as they were, And it’s those that I wanted to tell you about.
District nursing prides itself on caring for palliative patients in their own home.
Let me tell you, to care for someone who is so poorly and so near the end of their life isn’t scary or daunting. It is huge honour. It’s privilege to be able to make them comfortable, to tend to their needs, to support their families.
I’ve met so many wonderful families, and while they’re sitting with their loved one, comforting them, they reminisce about times gone by. About how they met. About when they were young, where they married or about a funny story from that Christmas in 1984.
To be in that person’s house which has held so many memories of Christmas and holidays and babies being born. Arguments and tears. Teenage tempers and grandchildren. To see the pictures on the walls, in frames illustrating their lives out; holidays in Weymouth and Blackpool on the coach. A kiss-me-quick hat upon on jolly faced man. Maybe we’re in the living room of their family home as they are too poorly to climb the stairs. The room that once held cosy evenings together.
To see out the last few hours, last few breaths of a person’s life, them leaving their whole story behind.
Yes, it’s an absolute tragedy to see the family upset to see them lose their loved one, to see their hearts break and not be able to fix that other than to offer compassion and assurance that their loved one is no longer suffering. Time is the healer there, not me. The unmistakable silence falls then. A silence like no other. Deafening.
You may think that Im hardened to it. Im not. Sometimes I cry all the way home or think of them or their family the next day or the day after that. It is incredibly sad to see this play out in front of me. Its the end of someone’s life, however long or short. They’re invariably leaving loved ones behind and my heart breaks for them as fat salty tears roll down their distraught faces.
However, this is a tragic fact of life and to be here to make the journey more comfortable, to be a holding hand, to have that persons trust, that’s what you need to take from it. And it’s not really about me. Families express their gratitude, but thats the least i can do for their loss is so great all beit an expected one.
It’s an absolute honour to do that job and one I’ll never take for granted.
If you or someone you know wanted to talk more about this as im sure we as Brits don’t, try looking at this website. I’m sure there’s cake involved too. http://deathcafe.com
An appropriate song to go with this. https://youtu.be/bIB8EWqCPrQ
Photo courtesy of Happy land and my terrible photography