It is possible that there is an opportunity for some of the personal care to be taken on by someone who understands and respects the hospital systems, rhythms and rituals and, at the same time, has an intimate relationship with the patient; someone the patient knows well and trusts to be steady, non-imposing, unemotional, practical and willing to offer whatever is needed. It is essential and fundamental that the personal carer works with the nursing team and is sensitive to everything that is going on around them.
Nursing staff on a busy ward have much to do monitoring and making regular checks and do not generally have time to gently massage an aching body that may have been lying in one position for a long time, or to regularly adjust pillows, encourage small sips of water and just be there for the patient. Lying in a hospital bed can be a lonely place even with all the surrounding bustle and activity.
Some people may be reluctant to ring the call button for someone to adjust the pillows or their position as they ‘don’t want to be a nuisance’ but, with a personal carer chosen by the patient, who is able to support them and respond to the seemingly smallest request, it can make an enormous difference. Nothing is insignificant and it becomes part of the flow of communication between patient and carer.
During doctors’ rounds, particularly in an ICU, a patient may have trouble understanding the information given, taking in what is being said and answering questions clearly, whereas a personal carer can keep a record of what is being asked and of medications and treatments prescribed. They can ask questions and offer insights into the patient’s previous condition offering more clarity about past history or responses to medication with details of what has benefitted and what has not and, as such, they become an integral part of the nursing team.
A personal carer, in tune with the one-on-one patient, is likely to notice any slight changes for better or for worse, whereas busy nurses at the end of a long and tiring shift may be unaware of such changes in a patient. So, in supporting the patient, the personal carer is also supporting the medical team, as well as offering more opportunity for staff to meet the practical needs of other patients in their care.
Providing personal care can deepen the love and connection that people have with each other. There is a foundation of trust and sensitivity for when the patient feels to talk and share how they are feeling and for when they need space to surrender to sleep and be in deep repose.
Being offered food that is in tune with the patient’s body is an important part of the nourishing, nurturing and healing process, whatever the illness may be. A personal carer will know of any personal food choices that the patient wishes to maintain whilst in hospital and can support by preparing and bringing in food that meets all the needs of the patient; they can respond to any change in amounts or ingredients, encouraging the patient to eat when appropriate.
People often feel very anxious being in hospital and benefit from being able to choose familiar foods that suit them. In the hospital system there may be an emphasis on appealing to the taste buds to encourage someone to eat – just as long as they eat something. However, it is essential that they are supported to maintain their preferred diet, one that suits their body throughout the illness and recovery process. The body will clearly communicate when food is no longer supporting it in preparation for passing over.
The medical team may be very attentive and loving, however a personal carer can be responsive to the sensitivities of the patient in every moment, and in a way that offers a depth of insight and love that is the foundation of their deepening relationship.
Love is the best medicine
D&D Writing Team, UK
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