No one-size-fits-all approach to palliative care in LTC

Country Terrace

Staff addresses each person individually, keeping quality of life No. 1 priority

Having a loved one at the end-of-life stage can be a challenging experience. Sometimes the person’s family members insist on the home’s staff doing everything possible to prolong the person’s life, however, this can raise ethical questions in long-term care homes.

“It’s when you know that the person has reached the end of their physical life but their loved ones can’t seem to let them go,” Kimberley Noftle, the clinical care co-ordinator at Country Terrace, tells The OMNIway.

It’s a question that has echoed for a long time in health care. A person is dying, there’s nothing more that can be done to make them well again, but their family still wants continued tests and transfers to hospital to keep their loved one alive.

Noftle says this is an issue she has seen staff members face many times.

What is not always apparent to the family is the fact that these efforts will not necessarily prolong their loved one’s life, and hospital transfers can have a detrimental impact, Noftle says.

The best thing that can be done when there is no chance of a person getting better is to take measures to make them comfortable and pain-free, she adds.

The approach to helping a resident and their family through the process depends on the situation.

In the more challenging cases, Noftle notes, staff members will meet to create an ethical framework to address the situation. An ethical framework refers to a set of principles that help guide staff members in making decisions that best meet the needs of the resident.

Front-line staff members are also approached to provide their input, as is the home’s physician, Dr. Andrew Whynot, whom Noftle says is “excellent” when it comes to working with families.

“You can see that when Dr. Whynot speaks with people that he does care and he is a kind and warm person,” Noftle says.

Noftle has worked in health care for more than 25 years. One positive change she says she has noticed is that, compared to when she first began her career as a health professional, family members are today understanding the idea that prolonging their loved one’s life is not what palliative care is about. Helping a person die with dignity and providing them with a comfortable experience should be the goal.

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