Modern society does not always reflect this traditional view of the family and, therefore, the aged care team’s notions of ‘family’ must be much broader and more inclusive.’ This means that everyone in society has their own thoughts and meanings about families and it differs within the societies, family is whoever the patient says it is.
Families of the ill patient have a right to know everything about their care and they should be involved in the patient’s wishes. The family is at the heart of what palliative health specialists do, and the patient and family’s wishes should be taken into consideration at all times.
‘Whilst some families will be drawn closer together by the stress they are facing , making relationships stronger than ever, in other families the emotionally charged situation of a terminal illness can cause conflicts to surface, adding to the family’s general distress’ (McIntyre 1996)
Health professionals need to remember and take into consideration that patients value their families and their decisions and they look to them for reassurance to them, as the family does to the patient. They realise that is all they have at that moment and grasp at any kind of hope of treatment and survival. Families at the time of the patient passing away are very distressed at losing someone close to them. At this time professionals need to remember that the bereavement experience this may affect the families health and well-being.
Gordon’s wishes for him and his family were that the nurses and doctors were honest and we offered support for them. Gordon and his family refused any bereavement services being involved at the time but they knew where they were if needed. Gordon said at this time the nurses were giving him all the support he needed and he felt happy about this. His wife said that she and the children aged thirteen and eighteen years of age were giving each other support and that was enough. The nurses explained that at any time the bereavement service can be involved. The nurses supported Gordon and his family by being honest, supporting any spiritual and emotional needs and assessing them at every level whilst Gordon’s health deteriorated.
McIntyre (2006) also states that a families’ stress is relieved by ‘Seeing the patient comfortable, getting regular updates from nurses and consultants, a relaxed manner from all staff and access to all support centres if needed’ All of this was offered to Gordon’s wife and children. The nurses and consultants kept the family updated at all times and asked for their permission when required. The staffs manner was calm and caring at all times and I thought felt my manner was calm. The family relaxed and put all their honesty and trust into you. It felt as if they relied on you at all times.
When Gordon passed away his family was very distressed but accepted he had gone somewhere happy releasing him from his misery and pain. They spent an hour with him. This seemed to calm and soothe them and the nurse and I spoke to them and explained what happens next and handed Gordon’s wife the death certificate they listened carefully.
The nurse advised them that support was always available and could be accessed at any time. The family was also informed that support from the hospice does not stop and they can call or visit at any time they needed. I felt sad at this time but knew I had to be calm for them. They thanked all the staff and left. After 3 weeks they visited with a card and flowers and said they were feeling a lot better thanked the staff for the support they had provided