Taking care of palliative patients can be a challenge for caregivers, but with the help of a trusted care team, the experience can be one filled with peace and dignity instead of being an ordeal.
Oh, my daughters are here!” cried Madam C (not her real name), jovially. Sitting on her bed, she extended her arms to her children for an embrace. A long hug ensued between the four of them before they exchanged kisses on each other’s cheeks.
It was only yesterday that Madam C saw her daughters, yet she has already missed them.
From a distance, Senior Staff Nurse Theviya Parama Sewai watched the heartwarming scene unfolding in the heart of the busy palliative ward at Sengkang Community Hospital (SKCH).
Their mother was everything to them and so were they to her. Their bond was beyond a mother-daughter relationship — she was their best friend whom they often confided in whenever they needed a listening ear.
When Madam C was admitted for palliative care due to breast cancer, everything changed. It was hard for the family to piece everything together after their mother’s diagnosis. However, they continued to put up a strong front to care for their mother with the remaining time they had.
As dutiful daughters, they would visit their mother religiously and would return home at night to rest. Seeing their cheerful mother reminded them of the days when she was healthy. But little did they know that Madam C would be confused and agitated at times during the night because of her condition.
To help her with the pain, the care team had to prescribe medication which made her drowsy and less communicative during the day. This did not go down well with her family, who were apprehensive of this approach which would leave them less quality time with their mother.
Despite the care team’s explanation, Madam C’s daughters — due to caregiver stress — refused to accept the reasons until her third daughter experienced it herself during one of the nights she stayed late.
She struggled to keep her mother calm and had to request for assistance from the nurses. With her daughter’s permission, medication was given to Madam C so that she could rest.
“Through the experience, the care team once again communicated to Madam C’s family on her condition and provided them with guidance and training to allay their stress, and help them with decision-making for her needs,” said Theviya.
With each passing day, the rapport between Madam C’s family and the care team became stronger. Madam C’s family was also able to control her agitation and sometimes would spend time with the nurses listening to her stories.
But within six months, the stories sadly ended.
As bitter as it was, Madam C’s daughters accepted the fact that their mother was gone and were happy that she passed away without much suffering.
Providing for Their Needs
As a palliative nurse, Theviya provides holistic care for patients encompassing their psychosocial, physical, cultural and spiritual needs. Often, Theviya will work with caregivers in order to understand the patients’ needs so that they can live comfortably during their last days.
“I have learned that good communication skills can help to make the patients’ journey easier and improve the rapport between nurses and families,” shared Theviya. Theviya also advises the care team to engage with the caregivers in all planning of patients’ daily activities.
Confidence also plays a part especially when managing caregivers who are facing a lot of stress in caring for their loved ones. “Being confident reassures caregivers that nurses are doing the best for our patients and makes them feel safe!” said Theviya.