To die alone in a short-staffed nursing facility is a disgusting epitaph for a sick society.
A society that throws away its human garbage – no passing bells for those who die as cattle.
All dying people should be surrounded by caring people, loved ones, fiends.
As a nurse in charge I insisted on a member of staff being with a dying patient, and if I was accused by other nurses of lessening the care given to others, I said, yes, so be it, but would your attitude be different if it was you left dying in a dimly-lit room or hospital bed, or your spouse, or child?
No reply, usually, and if there was I would let rip. Many were of a like mind to me, of course, the last of a kind.
It should not be necessary, but, because of the reality of much of present-day nursing, American iniatives such as No One Dies Alone should be applauded, and taken up widely in Britain.
In the words of Debra Wood, RN: ‘Ideally, people will pass from life to death surrounded by loved ones or a nurse but, often times, patients lack friends and family willing or able to stay with them. And nurses are often too busy these days to sit with a terminally ill patient. In an effort to ensure that patients make the journey in the presence of a caring person, a number of hospitals around the country have launched No One Dies Alone or compassionate companion programs’.
The volunteers stay three or four hours with the dying person and may play soft music or hold the patient’s hand.
A volunteer said: “Those of us who volunteer have a sense we can assist people and be there during those moments.”
Sandra Clarke is credited with initiating the No One Dies Alone program,after being asked by a a patient who was near death to stay with him. She said she would, but by the time she had seen her other patients, the man had died, and she felt terrible.
She developed a guide and materials that she sent to 900 hospitals.
“This is a win-win,” said Clarke, explaining that staff nurses no long feel guilty about not being able to stay with a dying patient.
Volunteers find the experience changes them and prepares them about what to expect with death.
The volunteers make sure the patient is warm, comfortable and clean.
“Those last hours are not undignified and they are not abandoned,” Clarke said. “The idea is not to abandon them on their last journey.”
Volunteers agree to be contacted four times per month and sit with patients for two to four hour shifts.
The volunteers provide comfort-care measures to imminently dying patients at hospital and nursing homes.
The volunteers receive eight weeks of training, covering all issues of end of life care.
Nurses welcome this program. The volunteers are seen as advocates who can inform the nurse of any pain breakthrough or breathing deterioration.
The volunteers find it fulfilling, receiving immediate feedback that they are making a difference in someone’s life by providing companionship at the end of life.
The volunteers provide emotional, spiritual and social support in the hospital, nursing home, home, or hospice.
They commit to meet with the patient at least weekly through the course of the person’s illness or until family members arrive. The nursing facility offers the volunteers ongoing support and meets with them on a regular basis.
It should not be necessary, but, because it is, I urge compassionate people to step forward and set up local No One Dies Alone programs.
I urge all compassionate people to volunteer.
Do not let nursing become just a compassionless task.
lenin nightingale 2015