By Lydia O’Kane
Saying goodbye to a loved one is never easy, and now because of the infectious nature of the Coronavirus it may not be possible for relatives and friends to be physically present with a dying patient.
There are over 129,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK and over 17,000 people have died as a result of the virus. In light of these challenging times, the Centre for The Art of Dying Well at St Mary’s University, London has developed a new Deathbed Etiquette for COVID-19.
The guide has been drawn up to help families and friends feel close to a loved one, even if they can’t be physically present with them.
The guide was compiled by two palliative care experts and hospital chaplains. Dr Amy Gadoud who is working on the frontline as a consultant at Trinity Hospice and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals said, they had developed the guidelines to help people deal with what is a very difficult time during this pandemic.
One of the suggestions in the guide is virtual communication, and Dr Gadoud noted that, “in these most difficult of times we do find that virtual technology can be really helpful; if not in every situation, but for some people it can be really helpful. And it’s certainly something that staff will support patients with.”
The Coronavirus is a new virus, which means experts are on a learning curve as to what exactly it is, and how to contain it.
Dr Gadoud said, “I know from our teams what we’ve done is work really closely together…and with our knowledge from dying from other illnesses, you can learn an awful lot from that, and we can spread to other teams caring for people with Covid as well as other illnesses.”
One of the great challenges posed by the Coronavirus is that family and friends may not be able to visit a dying patient because of the threat of infection.
Speaking about this challenge, the Palliative Care Consultant said “this is incredibly difficult because community is such an important thing at this time when someone is dying or when someone is bereaved…and this is when the guidance says we have to be quite innovative and thinking quite differently.” She pointed out that virtual technology can play its part at this difficult time, but also “thinking about that relationship you have with that person and that loved one even if you can’t actually be together face to face.”
Deathbed Etiquette for COVID-19:
Do what you can to help you feel close to your loved one even if you are apart.
Think about what your loved one would think and say. They will not want you to worry.
Communicating virtually may be an option.
What can I say? Speak from the heart.
Trust in the good care of the doctors and nurses. They are there for your loved one and for you.
Take care of yourself. It is important that you keep well.
Draw on your inner strength. Do what is helpful to you.
Don’t let feelings of guilt take over. Accept your feelings and let them pass. Think of the good advice you might give to someone else and then take it yourself.
Keep up with family, friends and those who will lift your spirits.