Hospice is for individuals who are facing a terminal illness, and the goals of the care team are to reduce pain and discomfort and help individuals approach the end of their lives.
The nursing assistant’s responsibilities are similar to work with other patients, but there are some differences when the patient is dying. The key part of the work is to keep the patient comfortable. Pain management is a major component of hospice care. Nursing assistants may not be qualified to administer medication, but they will be responsible for documenting what is happening with medication. This is particularly true if the hospice patient is at home and administering the medication himself or if a family member is doing so.
Another component of patient comfort is personal care. The nursing assistant will change bedding and diapers and assist with grooming and hygiene. If the patient is at home, family members may want to assist with or do these tasks. The nursing assistant can be a “teacher” to show them what they can do.
Physical comfort is only part of the nursing assistant’s job. Emotional support is as important if not more important. Traditionally, social workers and chaplains provide emotional support to the patient and family. Because the nursing assistant often spends the most time with the patient, the patient and family members may ask the nursing assistant questions about the process of dying. Questions should be answered in a caring way, and the nursing assistant should always refer to another care team member if the question is uncomfortable to answer or if the answer is unknown.