Terminal Illness

A patient with terminal illness experiences a variety of feelings. The CNA should respect their needs and desires and focus more on comforting the patients rather than curing them. This includes providing emotional and spiritual support, providing family time and caring for the dying person.

The CNA should be aware of the rights of the dying patient and also understand what the patient is feeling in the final stages of his/her life. A terminally ill patient:

  • Can decide how he/she will spend the final days of his life
  • Can refuse food and treatment
  • Has the right to relief from pain and suffering

The patient may also decide to stop life-sustaining treatment altogether.

The patient often feels anger and depression and it is difficult for them to accept the inevitable. The CNA should listen and support the patient during this time. It is important to accept the person and his choices without passing judgments. Depending on the patient’s ethnic background, the patient may want to meet a priest, recite prayers or do other things according to his/her religious beliefs and cultural values. If the CNA is not comfortable about supporting the patient’s beliefs, he should notify the supervisor at once. The nurse will accordingly transfer the patient’s responsibilities to another CNA.

The CNA should check regularly to see that the terminally ill patient is comfortable at all times. It can relieve the pain and discomfort that the terminal illness causes. The CNA can do the following to improve the patient’s comfort level:

  • Ensure that the pillows are positioned comfortably.
  • Position the patient comfortably.
  • Provide regular oral care and skin care.
    Look for signs of skin breakdown that may occur due to long periods of immobility.
  • Notify the supervisor immediately in case there are sudden changes in the patient’s health:
    • Nausea
    • Constipation
    • Anxiety and depression
    • Breathing difficulty
  • Provide hard candy or ice chips if the patient’s throat and mouth are excessively dry.
  • Provide emotional support and care when the patient expresses anger or frustration.
  • Comply with the patient’s request, and show that you care.

The patient may also show a decrease in appetite, because of his/her health condition. In such cases, the CNA should not force meals on the patient, as it can increase pain and suffering. Remember, the patient has a right to refuse food or treatment.

The best strategy is to provide the food that the patient asks for but not force him/her to consume it. In fact, providing food and water when necessary, creates the necessary chemical processes in the body that relieves pain and discomfort.