Due Respect: 3 Ways to Maintain a Dying Patient’s Sense of Dignity

 a woman in a hospital with a sickly relative

Suffering from deteriorating bodies, weakening memory, and fragile emotions, almost all terminally ill patients fear the seemingly inevitable loss of not only their life, but their dignity as well. The root of this dilemma comes from their relationship with their loved ones. How the dying patient sees how family members see them affects their sense of dignity. When they’re reduced to mere patients, someone succumbing to the crippling effects of disease and death, and not a person who has dreams, desires, relationships, and history, their last days become more grueling to bear. In some instances, patients don’t experience the peace they long for just before they die.

Family members then have the responsibility of maintaining the sense of dignity of their dying loved one. Here’s how you can do that:

Honor what they want for their last days

Patients would often have a preferred type of care. Some want to be on pain-reducing medications, while some don’t. Others prefer to receive spiritual counselling, along with their physical therapies. Some have direct orders about do-not-resuscitate. Still, there are others who want to be in hospice homes. Indiana health experts

say that whatever your dying loved one’s wishes are in their final days, even though you don’t agree with some, respect and follow them. Give the patients a sense of control over their situation. This will give them a boost in morale, as family members recognize that their decisions still matter.

Talk to them about trivial things

man holding her wife's hand in a hospital

A lot of people dodge topics like the recent basketball game or their new boss in the office, thinking that their dying loved one may feel offended for them bringing up such trivial things. It feels as if only life-and-death subjects should be talked about in such a time of crisis. But the truth is, dying patients would want to know these little details about you. It makes them feel like they’re still part of your life. It’s a break from the illness they’re suffering. More importantly, it gives them a sense of normalcy in such a crisis. Talking to them about everyday events encourages living life even in the midst of dying.

Give them privacy and space

Terminally ill patients will have their bad days. They would feel sharp pangs of pain or sadness, and they wouldn’t want loved ones to see them suffering or crying. It’s good to be there for them, easing their discomfort by talking to them and giving them medications, but sometimes, leaving them with medical professionals and giving them privacy is the kind of help they need. Patients often feel that they’re a burden to the family, so when their disease gets the best of them, it’s hard for them to see loved ones see them in that pitiful state. It takes a close, deep relationship with the patient to discern when it’s best to reach out to them and break away from them.

Again, how you see your dying loved one affects how they see themselves. Maintain their sense of dignity by seeing through their condition, and regarding them for who they are: human.

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