Dying with Dignity
The importance of patient dignity in end-of-life care cannot be denied. The concept of dignity may be likened to that of love – important, widely understood, difficult to define, and something that can’t be taught in a black-or-white manner. At Waipuna Hospice, we believe respecting patient dignity and giving patients choices is an important part of end-of-life care. For Annamaria, her sister passed away in an environment full of support and dignity.
Annamaria recalls her experience while witnessing Waipuna Hospice care for her sister. “My sister had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The doctor arranged for her to be under hospice care. A nurse came to see my sister and they discussed the care plan, arranging for a counsellor – they were wonderful.”
When the time came for respite care in Waipuna Hospice’s In-Patient Unit (IPU), “I went in with my sister and I was impressed at how everyone was so understanding, compassionate and caring. The little things I noticed that were amazing during the stay were things like the call bell being answered really quickly. This really impressed my sister and I.”
Annamaria said during her sister’s stay at IPU, her sister’s symptoms deteriorated very quickly. While she was set to be in the IPU for five days, the day before her departure a reassessment was done. The decision was made for her to stay a few more days. Every day, the doctor “talked with, not at, my sister and she really valued that, because her dignity and her pride was very important to her. That was definitely acknowledged and respected.”
“What really impressed me was that the doctors would talk to my sister about what was working, what wasn’t working, what they thought could work better. And then gave her the decision. Did she want to go ahead with that change? And after the doctor had left one time, we looked at each other and she said to me, ‘wow, I have got so much information to think about.’ I felt that was wonderful because she felt that she was in control.”
When you are ill and dying, a lot of things are taken away from you, however, Waipuna Hospice believes you can still have ownership over decisions.
Annamaria’s experiences demonstrate the principles and values of Waipuna Hospice services. Our team ensures and encourages a sense of dignity, as the emphasis is less on the disease and more on the person. The end-of-life care is concerned not with providing cures but with providing comfort, improving the quality of life for patients, while also informing and supporting the families.
“I was blown away by the caring support given to me as a support for my sister. One day, I was sitting in the little lounge. Suddenly a lady appeared beside me, and I saw she had a counsellor badge on. She said, ‘how are you today?’ I started crying and I could not stop. She was so caring and supportive. It felt like wraparound care for me as a support person – it was amazing.”
Annamaria said this wraparound support highlights the whole culture of Waipuna Hospice, providing comfort. When Annamaria’s sister died, the nurses showed real compassion – they were so genuinely caring and lovely. The counsellor sent a text offering instant support.
“There must have been a lot of other patients at Waipuna Hospice, but I never felt like I was one of many,” said Annamaria. Throughout this process, Annamaria deeply appreciated the support.
Annamaria first heard about Waipuna Hospice five years ago – “one of my precious close friends was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I offered to sleep at the hospice at night. They set up a La-Z-Boy for me so I would go in at night and just cover a couple of nights before she passed away.” Annamaria said the hospice allows you to have a real connection with your loved one in their final moments – easing the difficulty of the grief process.
Annamaria has supported hospice financially for years, and now “it’s become a personal journey, I would encourage anyone to trust hospice – it took the fear away.” Annamaria explains being told someone is terminal comes with grief, sadness, and a really intense sense of denial. “Waipuna Hospice is there to support you but not take over. They are there to care for you and your loved one – always to respect your dignity and give you choices. And as a support person, I really felt that wraparound love, because I wasn’t just sitting on the outside – they were including me. Often when they came in, they would put the seats around so I was included as a support person. We’re all going to die – you may lose control of some things in your life, but you can trust the people who are going to look after you, that they will keep giving you ownership right to the end.”
Dignity is subjectively experienced, and each patient is unique in their requirements. That is why it is important that at Waipuna Hospice, we use an open approach to assess each patient’s needs and aim to meet these accordingly. We use discretion as to what is appropriate when providing care for patients of different ages, cultures and religions. Waipuna Hospice care can increase a person’s dignity at the end of their life because we address each person’s full range of needs and preferences – physical, emotional, social, and spiritual. Hospice maintains patients’ dignity by focusing on their comfort and quality of life.
We don’t have the choice of when we’re going to die, but we all have the choice of everyday things. Life is special – live every moment.
We would like to thank Annamaria for sharing her story with us, and for her commitment to the work of Waipuna Hospice.
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Annamaria’s story was originally published in our quarterly newsletter, Waipuna Connections Issue 82. Please click here to read the full newsletter.