For many aging and elderly people, the prospect of leaving their home to enter a skilled nursing facility is overwhelming. While they may know that they need support, the fear of learning to navigate a new environment or moving away from friends and familiar territory is more frightening than the physical or mental deterioration that makes life at home difficult or unsafe. For you, managing elder care in addition to your work and home responsibilities is exhausting. You want to care for your loved one, but it can be especially challenging if you have no previous healthcare experience. For those who qualify, palliative care nursing can be a helpful option. If your loved one has received a terminal illness or life-limiting diagnosis, their GP can provide a referral for in-home support.
Terminal or life-limiting illnesses are often accompanied by pain. In-home nursing staff receive extensive training on how to help seniors manage their pain in a variety of ways in order to ensure their comfort and quality of life despite their diagnosis. Here are five strategies that are encouraged.
1. Manage Medication
If your loved one has been diagnosed with an illness such as cancer or a heart condition, they are likely required to take a number of medications daily. Keeping the doses and times in order can be challenging, but medication can only be effective for pain management if it’s taken appropriately. Nursing staff help to organise and administer medication so that pain can be kept under control.
2. Try Physical Therapy
An individual who is bedbound or who has limited mobility can begin to suffer from bed sores or stiff muscles. Many medications also have painful side effects. Physical therapy can be a beneficial, non-pharmacological way to help manage pain symptoms. Often, many physical therapy companies will send a therapist to the home in order to assess the needs of the individual and prescribe exercises. Palliative care nursing staff can help your family member to complete their daily exercises.
3. Obtain Appropriate Resources
Perhaps the bed that your parent or family member has used for years is causing them pain or is too difficult to get in and out of. The front step up into the house makes going out for fresh air difficult. The beautiful hardwood floors are now a slip and fall hazard. Work with the nursing staff and your GP to determine what changes would be necessary to make the home safer for your loved one. There are many resources available to help you obtain the necessary tools to make the home safer and healthier.
4. Think Outside the Box
Managing pain during a terminal illness is more about comfort than cure. However, the less mobile your loved one is, the more difficult it can be to find pain management strategies that work. Whether your family member’s GP does not recommend additional medications or higher dosages or you’re simply looking for alternative strategies, it might be time to get creative. Pain and emotional wellness are linked. For many at the end stages of their lives, fear and anxiety play a role in increasing the feelings of pain that they experience. Seek out a spiritual counsellor or a psychotherapist who specialises in terminal illness counselling. Consider relaxation exercises that include breathing, massage, and visualisation. Music therapy may be beneficial for some, or something as simple as hold or cold compresses are all options to try for pain management.
5. Consider Surgery
It may seem counterintuitive to consider surgery when your loved one has received a terminal illness diagnosis. However, depending on the cause of the pain and if the pain is severe enough to interfere with the quality of their remaining days, it may be an option worth discussing with their GP.
Managing pain in seniors who have been diagnosed with a terminal or life-limiting illness is essential. If your loved one desires to stay at home during their final days, a palliative nursing team can help to make them more comfortable. While you and your family members are doing your best to support your parent or loved one, a trained team of nurses can help to make managing pain easier, ultimately improving the quality of life of you and your loved one, so that you can enjoy making a few more memories together.