Sadly end of life care for thousands of Coronavirus patients is happening in the absence of their loved ones. Stories of healthcare professionals holding a patient’s hand as they provide comfort in the last minutes of life are happening in hospitals around the world. Precious time to be with family and loved ones is not possible.
Covid-19 is bringing into sharp focus the importance of palliative and end of life care. People living with a life-limiting illness or old age in their last years of life spend only 5% of their time with healthcare professionals and 95% of their time with their loved ones. Their loved ones know them at a deep level, they know what brings them comfort and what is important to them. They want to be at home where they are comfortable and where they have a purpose.
As medical interventions fail to save lives in the battle of the Coronavirus hundreds of thousands will die in hospitals under the watchful kindness of doctors and nurses. At the end the most powerful things they can do is to offer a compassionate hand so that patients know that they matter and that they are not alone. Many palliative care professionals report that to care for someone at the end of their life is a privilege. All that remains after all that can be done is done is to show that person kindness, love and compassion. This is the part of palliative care in which we all have a role to play.
When we finally emerge from this terrible pandemic let us all remember the importance of our role in providing palliative care when we consider our terminally ill and our frail older person.