Creating Comfort: Preparing a Home for End-of-Life Care


Creating Comfort | Preparing a Home for End-of-Life Care.

The author, Jane Austen, once said, “there is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” When asked about end-of-life wishes, millions of Americans express a preference for staying in the comfort of their own home during their last days instead of being in a hospital or institutional care setting. We gather a sense of identity, peace, control, self-expression, and comfort from the spaces we live in. Even if a loved one loses mobility or the ability to communicate, the environment they are in has a huge impact on their attitude, emotions, and overall quality of life. Whether you are starting a conversation with an aging loved one, planning ahead yourself, or actively helping a loved one prepare their home, here are a few tips and ideas to consider when creating comfort within the home.

Tips for Creating Comfort in the Home

No. 1 Incorporate all of the senses when creating comfort within the home. Just because one or more senses may be diminished, doesn’t mean that others should be neglected. Pay close attention to what your loved one will see, smell, taste, hear, and touch in their space.

No. 2 Avoid clutter in the walkways and around the bed and sitting areas. Having a clear space not only reduces the risk of falls and injury, it is important for the eye to be able to rest in clear space that isn’t filled to the brim.

No. 3 If you are relocating your loved one from another room, pay close attention to the surroundings of your loved one. Ask if they would like to have an important object, memory-filled picture, or favorite piece of art near them. Replace an item in the room with a different one every few days to add variety such as artwork from grandchildren or new pictures.  

No. 4 Make sure the temperature in the room is tailored to their comfort zone. This may fluctuate rapidly so be sure to keep cozy blankets or cool fans easily accessible.

No. 5 The bed itself is very important for someone who is in the end stages of life as they may spend a significant amount of time there. Using special linens can add color and texture that is comforting and personalized.

No. 6 Place a calendar and clock in view of your loved one to help them orient themselves. If this is causing tension or anxiety simply remove the items.

No. 7 Music is one of the most powerful ways to transform the tone of a space. Play difference music in the room and ask what they like to hear. Maybe there is a song or artist they haven’t heard in a long time that they would enjoy.

No. 8 Suggest having family activities at the person’s home to alleviate isolation. For example, family game night or movie night could be enjoyed in your loved one’s living room or bedroom. Presence is one of the greatest gifts within the home. Even if a loved one is unable to communicate or respond, having family close and feeling included in what is going on can be a huge comfort.

No. 9 If the person is not allergic, pets can be an incredibly soothing presence in the home. Bringing in your loved one’s dog or cat to pet and showing interest in their furry friends can create a moment of connection, companionship, and a sense of calm.

No. 10 Usher in each of the seasons by bringing the outdoors inside, especially if your loved one is unable to go outside. An open window, fresh blossoms, a harvest pie, or a comforting favorite meal can really add a rhythm to life and give it variety.

No. 11 Encourage and adapt favorite hobbies within the home and make sure your loved one is surrounded by the tools they need to enjoy and express themselves such as art and craft supplies, books, iPad, music, games, stationary, etc.

No. 12 Whether it is the newspaper, a magazine, an online article, or a favorite book, reading to a person is such a comforting experience. Hearing a familiar voice and engaging in the outside world can be incredibly soothing.

In-Home Care & Hospice for End-of-Life Care 

A crucial part of planning for end-of-life care within the home is engaging professional services.While home care and hospice are widely known services, it can be confusing to understand the difference between the two services. Here is brief overview of how the two services work in concert with one another:

Hospice is a service for end-of-life care when an individual is declining and not showing signs of progress.  A nurse will periodically come to the home to guide the individual and the family through the dying process and can provide medications for comfort. A person can be on hospice for a wide range of time. The key difference between hospice and home care is that the hospice nurse is not available for long-term care that is needed on a daily basis. 

Home Care services are used for a wide variety of needs ranging from a few hours of care during recovery to end-of-life care. Services are available for long-term care 24 hours a day. Certified Nursing Assistants can assist with activities of daily living such as bathing, toileting, dressing, meal preparation, errands and shopping, comfort care, as well as companionship. The key difference between home care and hospice is that home care is not able to distribute comfort medications; however they are able to give medication reminders. 

Published on August 7, 2013.