Hospice Patients Alliance: Consumer Advocacy

Maintaining A Peaceful Atmosphere

Sound and music: what type of environment will be conducive to peaceful rest for your loved one will depend on his or her preferences. Many patients enjoy listening to restful, beautiful music which helps them relax, while some are used to the TV or radio blaring at all hours of the day or night. Others will prefer silence. What is important is to be sensitive to the patient's wishes and keep things the way he or she prefers.

Lighting: while a few patients will appreciate opening all the curtains and letting the scenery in from outside, many others will be bothered by the bright lights from outside. Some will want windows open, others may be disturbed by drafts and ask for windows to be closed. All of these factors are important. Especially important is to avoid loud arguments in front of or within your loved one's hearing. It is rare that a patient is not able to hear loud arguments, and even if the patient appears to be in a coma, sleeping soundly, you cannot be sure they do not hear you. In most cases, hospice nurses assume that the patient can hear you. There have been many instances where patients later informed family that they did hear the discussions or arguments, and family regretted speaking loudly in front of the patient. Even at the very end, when the patient is actively dying, unable to move, many patients are able to hear very well.

Limit the number of visitors: It is important for you to limit the number of visitors according to not only the wishes of your loved one, but his or her strength as well. Many well-wishers may come by and your loved one may not really have enough energy to entertain them. After a few visits, your loved one may simply wish to sleep, but exert himself to be polite to others and stay awake. This can have an adverse affect on his health, causing fatigue, tension and even increase pain levels.

Control visiting times: it is helpful to post a sign on the outside door to your home, advising visitors of specific times when visitors would not be interfering with bedside care or sleep. You will have to determine how much your loved one can handle. The amount of time may vary from day to day and as time passes. The actual amount of time you allow visitors into your home must be controlled, and at some point in time, you will become the gatekeeper. Your loved one is vulnerable and will not always be able to speak up for himself. There is a fine balance to be reached somewhere between allowing too many visitors and isolating your loved one from his friends. This will not always be easy, because the dying process is not simply a physical decline, it is a transition in which communicating with others is a vital process. Saying goodbye, finishing the unfinished business, typing up loose ends.... Hopefully, healing wounded relationships and expressing mutual love.

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