Comfort Care Means Relief From Pain, Not a Cure For Those Who Are Terminally Ill

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Comfort care means COMFORT, not cure. Our scientific and medical cultures are trained and geared toward cure, treatment, and results. Medical personnel want to fix people and find answers. Some will feel that somehow they have failed their calling if they do not keep searching and attempting to find a "cure." It is often difficult to move from this modality into comfort care only.

Such things as lab work, blood sugar reading, monitors, antibiotics, artificial nutrition, food and water, prescription drugs, continued chemotherapy, insulin and other result and data gathering procedures may need to be questioned as the dying process progresses. We must ask what will truly comfort the dying person, both physically and emotionally and let this guide our actions.

What is Palliative Care?
We may hear the term "palliative care" used interchangeably with "comfort care." both modalities are primarily directed at providing relief to a terminally ill person through symptom and pain management. The goal of comfort care is not to cure or make better, but to provide comfort and maintain the highest quality of life for as long as possible.

Many palliative care units or caring families also address mental health and spiritual needs. This is a way of respectfully addressing all the needs of the whole person as well as the family and support system who cares for them.

Caring, nurturing and comfort can most often be accomplished without medical procedures or even food and water in most instances. However, if these things comfort a dying loved one it may be beneficial to continue them. Check frequently with the person for any desire for change or requests to discontinue any of these measures.

Some hospitals and nursing homes have comfort care units. Even in these units families and caregivers are encouraged to continue to ask what will truly be of comfort. When there is a supportive atmosphere with consideration and respect, there is a sense of peace and serenity which makes the transition period from life to death much easier for all concerned.

We encourage families and care givers to continue acting as advocates for their loved one, to ensure that their needs and wishes are being met and respected. One of the most generous final gifts a loving family and support team can give their loved one is the gift of comfort care.

Judy H. Wright is a parent educator, family coach, and personal historian who has written more than 20 books, hundreds of articles and speaks internationally on family issues, including end of life. You are invited to visit our blog at www.AskAuntieArtichoke.com for answers and suggestions which will enhance your relationships. You will also find a full listing of free tele-classes and radio shows held each Thursday just for you at www.ArtichokePress.com.

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