End-of-life care presents healthcare professionals with many ethical challenges and dilemmas. Advancements in medical sciences have created the possibility of reshaping the circumstances during death and can prolong lives. Understanding ethical theories and ethical principles can provide a foundation for decision making and for the provision of more compassionate, informed care.
Using a multidisciplinary team approach, the primary goals of hospice and palliative care are to provide symptom control, psychosocial and spiritual care, and optimal quality of life. The role of hospice and palliative care is rapidly expanding due to a better understanding of end-of-life issues by health care professionals.
Pain assessment and management are especially important for high-quality, compassionate, and ethical end-of-life care. To provide quality care to individuals at this stage of their lives, health care practitioners must be particularly skilled at assessing pain, understanding misconceptions of pain management, addressing cultural issues in pain management, and providing effective pain therapies.
For health care professionals to provide compassionate, quality care to patients at the end of life, they must understand the many changes the patient undergoes. Holistic end-of-life care provides relief, comfort, and support whenever possible. It involves a comprehensive approach to the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual aspects of the individual during this unique time in their lives.
What is grief? What are normal grief responses? What is involved in the final life transition—death? The dying experience is a profound, individual experience. The experience of loss and grief are as individual and unique as the persons involved. During this time, people often raise questions about the meaning of life. The role of culture, palliative and hospice care, advance directives, the role of spirituality in death and dying, healing strategies and rituals are all important aspects of effective end-of-life care.
At the end of life, attitudes about the loss of a loved one profoundly affect how both a dying person and their family and friends address the dying and the grieving processes. Diverse populations in the United States provide health-care professionals with tremendous opportunities to bridge cultural gaps and learn about different values and religious and spiritual belief systems.
The death of a child is a devastating event with long-lasting effects on family, friends, and healthcare providers. While pediatric death rates in the United States have declined in the last century, pediatric death remains a critical healthcare issue. Often parents and children do not receive the care they deserve and require during this challenging time.
Caregivers are individuals who provide care to an individual who needs assistance. Caregivers can be professionals but are often unpaid individuals who support a loved one through an illness or the last phase of life. The experience can be immensely gratifying and rewarding as well as challenging and stressful. By anticipating the demands of end-of-life, caregiving can shift the journey to one in which support focuses on acceptance and healing.
The gift of organ donation is the gift of life. However, the gap between those who need an organ or tissue donation and the number of donations available is wide and growing. Health care providers need to understand the issues surrounding organ and tissue donation and recovery so they can effectively support the needs of donor families and donor recipients.