Can you imagine a more intimate relationship than that between a person nearing the end of their life and their caregiver? How vulnerable they both must feel; one of them being so depended upon, and the other being so dependent. What if the caregiver simply saw their patient as just another sick or old person they had to prop up until they expired, simply checking boxes on a list of requirements with little concern for what the patient wanted? Or what if the provider only saw their patients as the disease itself? Another statistic to be taken on and experimented with until a solution was achieved. That’s no way for anybody to live, especially when they have very limited time left on this earth. There is so much more to guiding someone through the end of their life than just managing symptoms. What about their emotional health? What about their individual needs and desires during this challenging transition? How does their family feel about their care and treatment options? These issues and more are why more and more hospice providers are taking measures to ensure a patient care centered approach.
The current and traditional medical model puts providers at the center of the picture, dictating patient goals and treatment options based on medical data. In many cases, the patient is powerless and often gives in to whatever their doctor tells them to do, regardless of their personal feelings about it or what their loved ones feel about it. Doctor knows best, or so they believe. But if a patient’s quality of life is to improve or be maintained through the remainder of their life, then they should have some control over their care. Both the patient and their loved ones should have a voice.
A Better Approach
With patient-centered care, the goal is no longer merely treating or managing the disease or condition. The goal of patient care is to meet the individual needs and goals of the patient, whatever that may look like. A patient-centered provider asks, “What can I do for you?” or “How can I make this easier for you?” because regardless of the disease they are treating or managing, there is more going on inside the patient. Their emotional needs must be met throughout this process in order to make their care plan a success. A holistic approach must be taken, offering some bit of autonomy and control to the patient and their family, which will make them feel a bit less like this situation is out of their hands.
A large portion of this is educating the patient and their family on the options available to them. There is no one right way to manage any condition, so it makes sense that providers should be open to many possibilities available to them. On top of this, a patient’s needs and desires must be understood, valued and respected. It is imperative to bring a patient and their loved ones on the same playing field as the medical provider, making all of them a team—with the patient as the captain— working toward a common goal which is to make this phase as comfortable and empowering as possible for everyone involved.