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The issue of grief and general reaction of people to an impending death of close member of their families has not been the target of much research in the clinical disciplines. Much of the focus has been instead on the tangible and measurable aspects of the field. This neglect has been in the backdrop of families as well as patients who are ignorant of ways of coping with the unfamiliar situation. A case in point is the patients who are suffering from terminal illnesses like cancer. The bulk of the nurses and other medical practitioners working with patient who have a limited and specific time to live in hospices and other similar settings have their attention on their patients only and rarely on their significant others who are going through difficulty coping and adjusting to the soon to be loss of their family member and friend. Whereas it is true that the terminally ill patients suffer the most, the family's feelings and concerns are not to be ignored.
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Even when any practitioner, for example a nurse, takes some minutes to explain the situation or just talk to the family and friends of the patient they are hardly patient enough to acknowledge their fears and concerns. Most of them engage in what Callas, R. (2005) calls 'masking of feeling.' This he explains as the act of concluding and prescribing solutions to a troubled person, client or patient before getting to know how they really feel and what it is they need. This for example where a nurse or even a counselor tries to normalize and say things that will make a patient feel better without getting to know why they were feeling bad in the first place. Hughes, P.M (2001) states that a nurse should restrain from offering false comfort to like saying that everyone has to die or equating the death to a blessing.
Loss and grief presents the affected people with overwhelming anxiety and sadness. It is even worse when the death of the person is predicted as is the case in hospices and ward with terminally ill patients. The family and friends go through desperation and helplessness as they watch they watch the patient probably experiencing pain while there is nothing that can be done to help him or make the situation better.
According to Wrenn, P. (2007) the anticipation of the death not just by the patient but also his or her family and friends is very distressing and can even lead to depression and other psychopathologies like anxiety and adjustment disorders. When going through grief people can experience a series of physical problems including shortness of breath or even difficulty breathing, headaches, dizziness and nausea. Grief can also escalate to cause medical conditions like heart diseases and diabetes. As a way of coping most people may try to medicate the negative feelings by engaging in alcohol substance abuse which may be detrimental to their health.
Melnyk, B.M. (2005), states that encountering grief in while working in the field of medicine is almost unavoidable. It is an issue that most nurses and even doctors ignore only to be caught unawares when they for instance have to explain to their patient or their families that they have limited time to live. It is even worse when they have to report to the family that the patient is no dead.
This issue becomes a problem where the medical practitioners are not well equipped or knowledgeable enough to take their terminally ill patients or the family through the process of grief. According to Callas, R. (2005) most nurses and even psychologists fail when they try to get quick fixes for the concerns of the grieving persons or try to avoid the subject altogether. This could be due to the fact the persons have not help givers have not with their own personal grief and thus the issue evokes unpleasant memories. Not dealing with one's own grief and loss according to Wrenn, P. (2007) reduces their ability to help others deal with the same and often lead to burnouts and feelings of incompetency.
In the light of the mentioned problems and concerns it is of importance that medical practitioners especially the help givers like the nurses are equipped with skills that will enable them to take their clients through the process of grief successfully. Nurses should be recommended to go for regular trainings and refresher courses to ensure that they are amply informed on matters dealing with grief. It is also necessary that nurses develop an open mind and culture sensitivity because the patients come from different backgrounds with different ways of reacting to the death of their significant others. It is necessary the nurse who is handling the family or the patient aggrieved by the loss be able to let them perform the culture specific practices and rituals that concern grief.
This project is aimed at reducing the anxiety and other physical, social and psychological illnesses experienced by the family and friends of the patients suffering from incurable ailments and even those that are deceased. It is meant to help the families to get over their losses and to successfully go through the process of grief and thereafter lead healthy and meaningful lives.
The question to be answered is whether the families of patients with terminal illnesses and those that are bereaved are taken with success through the process of mourning and grief and therefore report less anxiety, physical and other psychosocial illnesses.
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The target population in this project is the family and friends of the patients as well as the patients who know that they have a limited or even specified time to live and are therefore going through mourning and grief. The project aims at ascertaining the competence of the caregivers like nurses with an attempt to explore how the said competency can be improved. The project will also explore the options and alternatives available to the patients and their relatives that they can utilize to cope with the distress of the mourning process. The main aim is to reduce anxiety, physical and other psychosocial illnesses resulting from grief and loss and eventually reduce the burden and cost of treating the otherwise avoidable illnesses.
Among the family members and friends of patients who are diagnosed with terminal illnesses do the skills of the nurses, counselors and other caregivers help in coping with the distress arising from the loss and thus reduce the resultant physical, social and psychological problems?
P- Family members and friends of the terminally ill patients.
I- Skills and competency of the nurses and other caregivers.
C- Options available to the families like joining support groups.
O- Reduce the physical, social and psychological problems and the burden of treating them.
The manner in which a person handles their losses whether or not they seem significant has a great psychological effect which in turn affect how they lead their lives there after. In the event that one is stuck into the loss or they ignore the feelings then they may pay the price in the long run. Shouldering the weight are the nurses and other medical caregivers who have to inform patients and their families of the impending death or even the death of their loved ones. There need for skills and capability to perform this critical duty with significant success.