Knowing how to start and encourage an honest conversation at an emotional and difficult time isn’t easy. As a nurse, you need to know how to ask questions that will allow your dying patient to take the lead. That’s one good way to show that your patient remains in control and that her wishes are respected.
To help you provide the best palliative care to your dying patients, here’s a list of the things you should never ever say when communicating with them.
1“How are you?”
This is probably one of the most natural conversation openers we commonly use. However, asking this question to someone who is seriously ill can stress them out.
Instead of asking that, ask your patient how he’s feeling today. This will encourage your patient to focus on what’s currently happening. Additionally, it’ll give you a clearer idea of what he wants to talk about and how open he wants to be with you.
2“You’ll be well.”
Giving false hope won’t do anything good to your patient. In fact, it can just make things worse since people who are near their end know it.
Rather than telling them that everything will be alright, just be quiet. Let your patient take over the conversation so you’ll know what direction he wants to take in the conversation.
3“Things happen for a reason.”
Telling your dying patient that everything happens for a reason triggers guilt. To your patient, it’s as if you are saying that you are blaming that person for what has happened to him.
This will make your patient feel uneasy about talking to you. He’ll shy away and avoid further communications.
4“Let me know if you need anything.”
A patient who just received a terminal diagnosis will need a lot of care and support naturally. Instead of saying that, do things instead.
Assist your patient in daily activities of living. Make sure that his room is at a comfortable temperature or that his bed is clean and warm enough for him. If your patient needs assistance with grooming, be available to help or perform the routine for him.
5“It’s God’s will.”
Saying this will only make your patient think that God is punishing him. It will also send him into deep introspection as to why God is taking too long to bring his health back.
6“You’re getting thinner.”
Dying patients will naturally look skinnier as their disease progresses. Telling your patient that he’s appearing thinner will make them feel that their death is getting near.
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What To Do Instead
7Don’t focus too much on the illness
Patients with a terminal diagnosis can feel as if their life has been completely swallowed by their illness. From time to time, discuss what’s happening to the real world with them. This is one good way to make them feel that they are still part of things and that their condition isn’t making them different and isolated.
8Encourage family and friends to stop making assumptions
Being sick can be isolating. Friends will stop inviting your patient to events and they might even stop visiting at all.
If this becomes the case, try to find ways to make your patient a part of things. Treat them normally and don’t consider your patient as just an illness.
9Spend as much time
Advise family members to spend as much time as possible with their sick patient. Even if he’s not able to talk, touching and hugging can mean so much to him.
10Avoid describing the patient as dying
When a person is given a terminal diagnosis, most people easily think of them as ‘dying”. However, while that person’s time is being limited, he’s still alive. He shouldn’t be described as “dying” unless he’s at his last moment.
As your patient starts opening up, be there to listen so that he can finally feel free of anything that has been holding him back for so long. Take note of his final wishes and be sure to communicate them to his relatives.
As much as possible, try to encourage his family members to listen to your patient as well. If they have a conflict, give them time to discuss and settle things.
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