It's not about you!
Updated: Jun 13
The first thing you have to remember is that this is not about you. By "this", I mean the experience someone else is having at the end of their life. Someone else is having the experience, and they are counting on YOU to help provide the support and comfort they need to make sure their death is done with dignity, kindness, comfort, compassion and care. So the very first thing you need to do is leave all of your "stuff" at the door. Shake it off, let it go and be fully and completely present for someone else. That is your gift to them; to walk into THEIR space fully and completely present.
I have walked into a patient's room and heard Brittney Spear's (for example) on the radio and I was pretty certain this wonderfully sweet 95 year old man was not wanting to hear that. I Could be wrong, you can never assume someone else's musical taste, but for the most part I would say that he was not listening to that and probably doesn't want to. Our job is to be mindful of what he wants to hear, what sounds might bring him comfort and peace.
One of the first tips I was given, probably my first day of nursing school, was the importance of assessing the room when you first walk in. Whether this is a patient, a family member or a friend that you are caring for, assessing the room is important. Feel the energy, check on the family members, see if there might be someone else that could use your comfort and support as well. And truly look at the person laying in that bed; his eyes, his skin, his breathing, the temperature of the room, the amount of covers, or lack thereof... all of these things play into what he is experiencing. Sometimes your patient can't verbalize his needs, so it is up to you to know what he needs and how you can help him. And check their toes... people have a habit of tucking the blankets in at the end of the bed... if you are dying, do you really want your toes all scrunched up at the end of the bed?? Let those toes wiggle and if it's not too cold, uncover them and let them breathe.
My biggest pet peeve is a dry mouth. A dry mouth, especially on someone who cannot verbally express their discomfort could cause agitation and restlessness. A quick swish of a mouth sponge, a drop of water on a tongue, the separation of the teeth against the gums... is like a mouth hug. Never leave your person with a dry mouth... it just isn't kind.