Traditionally, water and food are thought to be the foundation to existence. Providing water and food to our loved ones can be a method used to our care and appreciation for them. The thought of not providing them with these essentials can lead to a feeling of no concern for our loved ones; however, according to the American Medical Association, "some patients at the end of their lives voluntarily refuse oral fluid and food". The will of such patients (still maintaining the confidence to make decisions for themselves) must be respected, and aggressive rehydration and forced feeding should not be employed (CRHCF,2015).
Consequently, this is a common and normal phase for patients who are approaching end of life. Nonetheless, it can be a difficult process to watch, and it is common for families resist this transition. Feeling that your loved one is close to death can be pitiful and heart-breaking and can cause a psychological, emotional, and spiritual impact on family members (CRHCF,2015).
In scenarios like this, hospice care would be ideal for the patient. Hospice care's (hospice nurse) social workers can give advice, educate, and support the family as well as help family members discuss the benefits and side effects of introducing artificial hydration such as the use of IV fluids which include hypodermoclysis, i.e. transfusion of fluid into subcutaneous tissues (CRHCF,2015).
The benefits will be explained with research.
A study of 100 hospice care patients hydrated by IV fluids concluded this therapy could be helpful in achieving better control on symptoms. Four patients reported enhanced cognitive functions, and some also reported less restlessness (CRHCF,2015).
Dehydration is a normal process during the last days of life that act as a natural anaesthetic at the end of life. This anaesthetic effect can be explained in the following different ways:
The hospice team guides the patient to follow some steps in order to reduce dehydration at the end of life. These steps are as follows:
Throughout life, staying hydrated is very important for a healthy and good life. Water is important to help maintain body temperature and other bodily functions. When the body loses water in the processes of digestion, sweating, and breathing, it must rehydrate by intaking water and fluids.
But at the end of life, these requirements change because the body is no longer in good health. As the body begins to slow down, it would not need as much hydration and liquid intake as it once did. This is the way the body of preparing itself for terminal life and is a natural reaction of the body to old age (Crossroads,2018).
There are some drinks that are great for hydration at the end of life. So, the hospice team guides the family members to offer these drinks to their loved ones.
Cherry Lime Infused Water
The first drink is a cherry lime-infused water. It is very good for hydration because its main component is water; the included fruits are enough to give a bit of flavour without affecting the blood sugar level of the patient. We will discuss its brief recipe as follows.
Strawberry Ginger Switchel
Image source: https://www.recipestonourish.com/strawberry-ginger-switchel/
This drink includes:
This drink has to sit overnight before use to achieve the complete effectiveness of ingredients (Crossroads, 2018).
End of life events can bring many changes to the patient’s body, one of which is dehydration. Dehydration is often treated but toward end-of-life treatment can look very different. Although dealing with end of life can be difficult for both the patient and the family, hospice can assist with the process and provide the family with emotional support as well assist with clinical treatment for the patient.
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