Many of us are generally familiar with the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Perhaps a resident of Manchester or elsewhere may have gone through this sequence in the past with a loved one or may be going through them now because of their own health conditions.
The process, however, may feel a little different if you’re receiving palliative care. Because this model of care focuses more on promoting quality of life at any point of the treatment or healing process vs. traditional care, there might be different types of emotions or a wider range of feelings involved.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care is familiar with grief, palliative care, and end-of-life situations. We’ve worked with patients at every part of the healing process, and also worked with their families, since in some situations, everyone moves through the process at different speeds. Perhaps a patient has reached a point where they’re open and accepting of whatever is happening with their life, including the possibility of death, while the people around them still are still trying to cope.
We’ve also worked with patients and families right after they have entered palliative care. It’s certainly easy enough for some to start the process in the denial stage when you’re not quite sure what’s happening to you or even don’t believe it’s really happening.
This stage can often be an opportunity to learn a good deal about what palliative care is or isn’t. This type of care is an approach to medicine where the patient’s wants and needs are focused on to a larger degree, rather than throwing all sorts of medications, surgeries or hospitalizations at them to try to solve the problem. Instead, a patient receiving palliative care may be sent home and given the opportunity to stay in their own bed in their own house. They may still receive medication, but sometimes it’s more designed to relieve pain and still allow them to be alert and spend meaningful time with their families.
Palliative care isn’t automatically a death sentence for everyone, although not everyone knows that hospice care is actually considered a form of palliative care (it has a similar philosophy of allowing someone to spend their final days at home with loved ones nearby, rather than a sterile, noisy hospital.)
In some cases, a patient receiving palliative care for a health condition may even improve – being away from stressful situations like the hospital, or surrounded by friends, may accelerate healing.
Home health care personnel, such as nurses, are familiar with what many patients and families go through, so they often can affirm that what someone is feeling is similar to what other patients feel (with the disclaimer that everyone doesn’t have to feel the same – every individual and circumstance can be a little different.)
The grief stages, from denial to acceptance, may appear in patients, especially those who may have terminal health conditions. But it’s likely that people receiving palliative care may experience other positive and negative feelings as well.
- Health conditions are always an unknown, especially when “the odds” of survival/recovery for different treatments are mixed. Cancer patients, for instance, may feel some relief after undergoing chemo or radiation but may still wonder if it will return.
- Happiness. A decision to focus on palliative care is often accompanied by feelings of happiness, especially if someone doesn’t have to go through painful procedures away from home. Even if the ultimate prognosis isn’t good, there may still be some uplifting feelings that someone doesn’t have to be alone.
- Generosity. End-of-life situations or even possible end-of-life situations can help put a lot of things in perspective. This can include encouraging people to become more generous, whether it’s giving their own items away to loved ones prior to their passing, or looking for ways to help others in their communities. It also could be a chance to return the favor if you were aided by particularly nice people in your local medical community – they likely would welcome a new volunteer to provide comfort to others currently receiving care. Or, other non-profits also might appreciate your skills. The art of giving is especially helpful for the giver and the receiver, whether it’s a holiday like National Give Something Away Day, which recently took place, or just a day.
- More social. People who have health scares or even know they have little time left sometimes become more interested in reaching out and forging new or stronger social connections. They may be more concerned about how they will be remembered, either by close family members or others in their community. They may be eager to start living life more fully, with few regrets, whether they have a limited number of days left or an unknown amount. It’s not always easy to establish this habit if it hasn’t been part of your world but you can start small with simple gifts and positive compliments and build from there.
Whatever point you are on in your health or even your life journey, looking for opportunities to be positive can go a long way.