Helping CNAs Understand End of Life Care

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Hi, and welcome to our career training series. I’m Nick and I’m one of the team members here at myCNAjobs.

Today we’re going to be talking about end of life care and what that means for you as a CNA. Most patients prefer to spend the end of their life at home when possible, although end of life care is provided at facilities and hospitals as well.

So what is end of life care? End of life care is care provided for a patient who is dying. It is different from palliative care, which is for patients who are ill and cannot be cured, but aren’t likely to pass away soon. The goal is to ease the suffering of your patient in their final days or weeks.

Patients receiving end of life care can have different kinds of suffering. It can be physical pain or emotional pain -- and often times both. Common types of physical pain can include not being able to move or sleep due to extreme discomfort. Common types of psychological pain can include fear over death, grief, and changes to their body that may be upsetting to them. As the Caregiver, it is part of your job to help manage and ease the pains your patient may be experiencing.

There are things you can do to help your patient outside of reporting to the nurse for medication. These may include things like a gentle massage, applying heat or cold packs, a caring touch, and distractions like music or conversation.

You can also help improve their day-to-day comfort with things like positioning them so they’re at ease, offering food they enjoy, turning them regularly to avoid swelling, adjusting the temperature to a comfortable level, and keeping the environment quiet and peaceful.

There are also a number of ways to help keep your patient emotionally comfortable. Some of those include keeping them company with activities like watching movies and reading, or even just talking. Allow them to express their fears and concerns about dying. Don’t withhold difficult information from the patient. Be willing to hear about their life, as many patients like to reflect on their past and memories during end of life care. Be sure to respect their desire for privacy, too.

In addition to helping your patient manage these pains, you’ll also need to work with others to create a peaceful and caring environment. This may include family members or friends that are present during this time. You may be tasked with helping everyone openly address and deal with the grief they’re going through. It’s important to promote caring communication between everyone in the room. This means you’ll be answering hard questions sometimes - it’s important to speak the truth so everyone can be informed.

Often times you’ll be dealing with a family Caregiver of some sort - a family member who has spent a lot of time taking care of your patient. This will be an especially challenging time for them, and it’s your job to help ease their pain, too. Some family members will be scared to be in the room when your patient passes, while others may not want to leave for fear of missing it.

It’s also important to take care of yourself. Providing end of life care is a rewarding experience, but it can be challenging, exhausting, and scary. Don’t forget to take care of your own needs, and address your own fears and grief, too. Some things you can do to take care of yourself include building a support network, exercising regularly, eating nutritiously, and maintaining a sense of humor.

After a patient has passed, there is no need to rush to make arrangements. Family members and friends may wish to spend time with the patient, pray, or talk. When the family is ready, after-death care will begin.

That’s all for today. I hope this was a helpful insight into what end of life care is like for CNAs. It’s not an easy job, but it’s an important one! If you’re looking for CNA work you can visit us at to find work near you. Or if it’s easier, you can call and talk directly to a recruiter at 312-275-3959.

End of life care can be a challenging task for many Caregivers and CNAs. This video is designed to help you understand what end of life care means for you as a Caregiver. We’ll go over things like what end of life care is, common symptoms of patients receiving end of life care, how you can help your patients during end of life care, communicating with end of life patients, working with the family and friends of your patient, and taking care of yourself while providing end of life care.