Critical events in the dying process: The potential for physical and psychosocial suffering


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Understanding what aspects of the dying process motivate terminally ill individuals to consider hastening their death, can lead to improving end-of-life care. Advance knowledge regarding critical events within the dying process that have the potential to give rise to physical and psychosocial suffering such that an elder wishes for or considers a hastened death. Face-to-face in-depth qualitative interviews conducted with 96 terminally ill elders, 15 of whom discussed an event in their dying process that resulted in suffering so great they wished for, or considered, a hastened death. Data were content analyzed to identify and categorize the main themes and patterns involved in these elders’ experiences. The interviews were conducted on palliative care hospital units, and in outpatient clinics, free standing hospice facilities, and home hospice. Four critical events emerged: perceived insensitive and uncaring communication of a terminal diagnosis; experiencing unbearable physical pain; unacknowledged feelings regarding undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment; and dying in a distressing environment. Respondents discussed physical and/or psychosocial suffering that occurred at these events, and the end-of-life care practices that reduced their suffering. Awareness of events common to the dying process, the potential physical and psychosocial suffering that may arise at these events, and the end-of-life care practices associated with reducing that suffering can lead to health care professionals being able to take a proactive rather than reactive approach to end-of-life care.

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