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Helping Patients Deal With Death: A Guide for Medical Professionals

  • By Medical Bulletin 
  • Category: Medical 
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Dealing with death is never easy. However, it is a sad reality that medical professionals must face regularly. Whether it is a patient who is terminal or someone who has lost a loved one, death is always brutal to cope with. As such, medical professionals must be prepared to help patients deal with death healthily and constructively. Here are some tips on how you can help your patients deal with death.

Get Training

First and foremost, medical professionals need to receive training in end-of-life care. Not only does this help ensure that your patients are receiving the best possible care, but it also gives you the skills to respectfully handle sensitive conversations regarding death.

Online death doula training can help medical professionals learn how to serve their patients and families better. This can include learning about the grieving process, communication strategies for difficult conversations, and how to provide compassionate care.

There are also many in-person training sessions, such as those offered by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) or the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC). These training sessions can provide medical professionals with the skills and knowledge needed to support patients and families dealing with death.

Be There for Your Patients

One of the most important things you can do as a medical professional is to be there for your patients. This means being available to answer their questions, provide support, and be present overall.

Seeing someone going through such a tough time can be difficult, but your presence can make all the difference in the world. Let your patients know that you are available to them and that you care about their physical and emotional well-being. Ensure that you take the time to listen and be present with them during this difficult time.

Be Respectful

When discussing death, it is essential to remember that you are dealing with an incredibly sensitive issue. Ensure that your patients feel respected and heard by using language that is appropriate and non-judgmental. It is essential to avoid making assumptions and generalizations to ensure that each patient feels heard and understood.

Avoiding language that makes assumptions, such as “you must be feeling…” or “this is probably hard for you…” can help ensure the patient feels respected and listened to. Similarly, it is essential to remember that everyone deals with death differently and that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve.

Moreover, do not push your own beliefs and values onto your patients. Providing a safe and welcoming environment for them to express their feelings openly without judgment is crucial.

Encourage Healthy Coping Mechanisms

When dealing with death, it is vital to encourage healthy coping mechanisms. This can include engaging in activities that bring joy or comfort, such as reading a book or listening to music. You can also suggest talking to friends and family or attending support groups.

In addition, it is crucial to encourage self-care. This can include taking walks, exercising, eating healthy foods, and getting plenty of rest. It is also helpful to suggest that they find a positive outlet to express their emotions, such as journaling or painting.

Listen

Sometimes, all a person needs is someone to listen to them. If a patient wants to talk about their feelings surrounding death, let them. Trying to say the right thing or offer advice can be tempting, but sometimes you can be there and listen. Showing your patients that you are willing to sit and listen to them without judgment will go a long way in helping them feel better.

It would be best if you also were mindful of any cultural or religious differences regarding death. This can include respecting any traditional ceremonies or rituals that they might have. Some organizations provide online resources and training to learn more about how to best support different cultural backgrounds.

Educate Yourself on the Different Stages of Grief

As mentioned before, grief comes in many different forms. While you may be familiar with the five stages of grief proposed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, it is essential to understand that not everyone experiences grief in the same way or in the same order.

Some people may get stuck in one stage, while others may move through the stages quickly. It is essential to be understanding and patient with your patients as they work through their grief. You may suggest books or other resources help them through this difficult time.

Encourage Professional Help

Women embracing in rehab group at therapy session

If patients have difficulty coping with death, encourage them to seek professional help. There are mental health professionals out there who can provide the support they need during this difficult time.

Remember that grief and loss can also take a toll on the body. If necessary, encourage your patients to seek medical advice or support if they are experiencing symptoms associated with grief, such as physical pain, insomnia, weight loss or gain, and difficulty concentrating.

Overall, it is essential to remember that death can be a challenging experience for everyone involved. With patience, understanding, and support, you can help your patients navigate the grief process healthily and productively.