Emotional care

A key principle of emotional care is that no patient should die alone10. This may be easily fulfilled for patients with families and loved ones who are able to sit at the bedside. For those who would otherwise be alone, a busy emergency department may have limited availability of side rooms or support staff to sit with a patient for an extended period. Staffing help may have to be sought from other areas of the hospital for this important emotional role.

Regular checks by clinicians (possibly multiple times per hour) may be required to ensure distressing symptoms are managed and worries or fears responded to.

Video conferencing with absent relatives or friends can be useful if physical attendance is impossible.

Some loved ones like to feel helpful and involved in their relative’s care, by providing mouth care or helping with oral hydration. This involvement, described as ‘living the grieving process’, should be encouraged if patient and relative wish it, while remaining optional23.

Learning Bite

Special efforts may be needed to ensure no patient dies alone in the ED.