by Betsy Murphy , FNP, CHPN
It is only natural that we would want to deny how seriously ill our loved one is. Denial protects us from the painful reality that we may soon lose someone precious to us. While denial can help us to cope, it also may interfere with making a plan that will guarantee that your loved one’s final months are spent in the place they choose, surrounded by friends and family.
Well-thought-out preparation, on the other hand, will allow us to choose where death will occur, participate more fully in our loved one’s care, make better decisions and achieve a measure of control over the coming months. We will feel peaceful despite living with uncertainty. In the future, after our loved one has died, we will reflect back on these final months, and be left with the deep comfort that comes from knowing that we did our best for someone we love at a very difficult time.
So what are the signs that an elderly person may be approaching the final months of life? There are many indicators, but in this article, we will discuss three common signs: weight loss, progressive weakness and infections.
Another indicator is increasing dependency. Loss of weight leads to loss of muscle which leads to progressive weakness. This may start with
Identifying early that your loved one is declining has many advantages. You can tell your health care provider how you want those final months to be, so he or she can support you in your plan. Services can be put in place at home or in a facility so that if a crisis arises, it can be managed without going to a hospital. If you are able to get hospice care in place, oxygen and medications for comfort will be on hand should a medical crisis arise. Nurses will do routine in-home assessments and advise you as to what you can expect. You and your family will be better prepared.If you suspect your elderly loved one is declining, you can ask for a “hospice consult.” and a nurse will come to your home and advise you and your healthcare provider about eligibility. In-home support and availability of comfort measures is the key to successful care at the end of life.