Achieving a dignified death in palliative nursing
Although there is lack of consensus on what constitutes a dignified death, the wish to die at home by many people is a strong indication that it is the best available place to achieve this. Any such death in the home brings community nurses into sharper focus and central to the process of dying. To play their role effectively, community nurses need to be clear on what they believe to be a dignified death and equally, how they would help people achieve it. The key skill here is to ascertain whether their belief is also shared by the dying person so that both parties are striving for the same goal. To complete the trilogy, community nurses also need to consider a dignified death from the perspective of close family members. The real problem might arise if there are differing views, in which case the dying person's perspective is paramount.
When I was a clinical practitioner, relatives who visited after their loved ones had died seemed to ask two main questions: was someone with them when they died?; were they in pain? I would argue that answering yes and no, respectively, to these questions would contribute towards achieving a perceived dignified death for them. If we accept this premise, it is logical to suggest that most palliative care nurses would try and answer such questions in the same way.
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