Recently, I visited a client in hospital who was approaching the end of her life. Most of the time, she was asleep but she did wake every so often. This is when simple things make all the difference.
She was experiencing some back pain and discomfort. During the time I was working for her, I’d given her gentle foot massages. So it seemed very appropriate to give her a gentle foot massage during her waking moments. It eased her discomfort a little as gentle touch can be very soothing. I used a lovely smelling moisturizer so the aroma created in the hospital room was really pleasant. One of the nurses commented on the lovely smell.
Thirst was also something she experienced when she woke. The hospital provided little sponges on sticks. She had difficulty sipping from a cup by this point. By her visitors dipping a sponge in some water and placing it in her mouth, she was able to suck small amounts of refreshing water to quench her thirst.
When she was asleep, I sat with her son reminiscing about his and her earlier life. I hope that if she was able to hear anything she would have enjoyed listening to this conversation.
There can be a feeling of uselessness when sitting with someone as they approach the end of their life. Gently holding their hand gives a meaningful connection. Just a word of warning: follow their lead if they remove their hand – this indicates they don’t want that type of contact at that time. Just being there and being quietly present can be the most simple of things that makes the biggest difference. Presence can give gentle reassurance that they are not alone.
Some things are very much out of our control. The actual moment of dying is unpredictable. Even for those who’ve witnessed many people dying, it’s impossible to say when this will happen. It’s a personal choice how long we each stay with someone as they approach the end of life. I’ve had experience of witnessing the actual moment of dying. It’s also very common for the dying moment to be unwitnessed as a relative steps out of the room for a short period. Either way, accepting how the last moments happen is a simple thing that can give some peace of mind to those grieving.