Accompanying and listening in the last journey of life

The aim is to make death as painful and agonizing a process as possible, reducing the emotional burden and suffering that patients and their families experience when facing the final stages of life. Program for comprehensive care for people with advanced diseases Which is promoted by the “La Caixa” Foundation and managed by the Red Cross psychosocial care team in Almería, both in their homes and in hospitals and nursing homes.

In this continuous improvement of health care and humanization, this initiative celebrating fifteen years in the province also includes psychological aspects, in addition to the emotional, social and spiritual sphere of the patient and those close to him. Assistance to palliative care health professionals in needs that arise After the diagnosis of a disease without treatment in the oncological field and neurodegenerative pathologies such as ALS, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s, among many others. Over the days, weeks, months and even a few years, psychosocial support has become an indispensable tool to accompany the palliative patient spiritually so that they can go in peace.

Patients need affection, understanding, companionship, in short, to be listened to and looked into the eyes. The touch and closeness that Red Cross psychologists and volunteer staff transmit helps them Express your fears, worries and difficulties and learn to deal with your illness, loss and pain Contains. Difficult situations require support that improves their quality of life and helps them manage stress within a framework of individualized, respectful and humane comprehensive care that focuses exclusively on their wishes. One of the sick people wanted to go to the beach before he died and so they did, and despite the impossibility of a response from the relative in charge, his wish was fulfilled.

There is no recipe or trick for alleviating the suffering of the sick and their families other than providing special care with warmth and compassion, allowing patients to live and interact with other people. Moments of respite that are essential for those who care for them, Between 2009 and 2023, this psychosocial program developed by the Red Cross in Almería, in pioneering and continuous innovation, has served approximately 15,000 people, 5,700 patients and 9,200 family members of twenty nationalities in the province.

78% feel average or worse

On the occasion of World Palliative Care Day in mid-October, the “La Caixa” Foundation presented a report measuring the impact of psychological and spiritual support for people with advanced illnesses, which showed that 78% of users felt regular or poor and Feel it later. With the intervention of the Psychosocial Care Team (EAPS), this percentage has been reduced to more than half. Another relevant aspect of the research is that, after meeting with psychologists and volunteers, 66% considered that their beliefs and values ​​help them cope with the situation, because The strengths and resources that people have at the end of their lives are strengthened, Psychosocial intervention also improves the patient’s feeling of sadness and after comprehensive support it reduces to 17% Maximizing patient autonomy, providing respect, and avoiding and minimizing suffering,

Red Cross volunteers accompany a patient who wanted to go to the beach for a while before dying

The Red Cross operation is composed of five psychologists, one in the three residences where they started the previous year (El Zapillo, Esperanza and La Purisima), another in the home care team, and another in the palliative ward of the hospital. University Torrecardenas, second in pediatrics and fifth EAPS coordinator, Ana Maria Almansa, in charge of grief counseling and group leadership. According to the agreement signed with the Andalusian Health Service, the scope of action is limited to the 47 municipalities that make up the Almería Health District and the capital’s reference hospital. This group of psychological professionals is complemented by fifteen Red Cross volunteers with specific training who, in the coordinator’s opinion, play an “essential role” within the project, providing comprehensive support on the social, emotional and spiritual during illness and grief. Promote.

care humanization

They work to humanize health and support in situations of advanced senescence and social vulnerability, providing quality care to people facing the end of their lives. The EAPS team psychologist intervenes with the home palliative care support team at different stages and in the most difficult moments such as sedation. The program contributes to improving psychological dimensions (symptoms like anxiety, depression, malaise, pain and insomnia), Social (ability to connect with family and environment) and those considered Necessary (Spirituality, dignity, sense of peace and forgiveness and degree of acceptance of the illness).

non-oncological minor

The Red Cross EAPS provides care to adult oncological and non-oncological palliative patients and those who have not been diagnosed with cancer at the pediatric level. One of the areas in which they do essential work is grief care during and after hospitalization during pregnancy loss. The Almeria Red Cross psychosocial care team frequently participates in training and psychoeducational activities Working as a network with other groups across the country to generate evidence and improve care models By following a continuous training plan, the people they serve.

The team integrated into the “La Caixa” Foundation program intervenes only when needed by health workers both in the hospital and at home. In fact, one of the main objectives of the Compatible Project is to be able Complementing the focus of public administration in the field of palliative care To receive comprehensive care that also takes into account previously forgotten psychosocial aspects.

Ana María Almansa: “It is important to say goodbye, it gives peace to those who leave and to those who remain”

“We try to let patients tell us what they need to say, what resolutions they need to make to close such an important phase as the end of their life. Therefore, it is essential to know how to listen to what they are telling you and get to know their fears and concerns, which sometimes includes what their family will be like if they are gone. “Those are amazing conversations that we learn from every day.” This is the testimony of psychologist Ana María Almansa, director of the Red Cross psychosocial team The interview that journalist Gemma Neerga conducted with him a few days ago “La Caixa” in a chapter of the special A Fondo on the Foundation channel. A video full of meditations on death, through which the general public learns that the support they have been providing for almost fifteen years is similar to a program of comprehensive care for people with advanced diseases who are at the end of their lives. Are in phase. ,

Ana Maria Almansa explains that we do not have a good habit of talking about death, Families have difficulty expressing their feelings And its task is to let them know that the end of life is not a complicated situation, nor to transform grief into illness because it is another stage that must be closed in the best possible way. He explains, “Farewell is very important, it gives peace to those who leave and also to those who stay.” “When we go to a home or a hospital, that patient has already been there for many years. Have experienced difficulties and symptoms and they know there is no solution, worsening of the situation is inevitable, there is fear of physical pain, suffering, but they show us “People are much more than we seem,” he says. Are more flexible.

Red Cross EAPS coordinators explain that advanced patients have psychological and emotional needs, sometimes even spiritual and social, to which they try to respond with the support of psychologists and volunteers. And he emphasizes helping families in grief because, in his opinion, “People today distance themselves from grieving people, from people who cry and talk about the dead, unfortunately it happens is and as a society we must learn not to turn our backs on them. “For those who have lost a loved one.” In this sense, Almansa values ​​her The same thing has been happening before and after the pandemic Because “it made it clear to us that there is death” is contributing to the perpetuation of an incomprehensible taboo. This expert in psycho-oncology and palliative care regrets that there is still no universal human rights instrument that recognizes the right to a peaceful death.

“I see smiling parents who go out and collapse.”

Paki Soria, an accountant by profession, is one of the volunteers of the Red Cross psychosocial care team. At the age of 67, already retired, she visits patients at the end of their lives whenever possible and also helps the families with all their needs. Always lively, with a sense of humor, he knows how important every gesture of affection is, whether holding hands, listening or telling a story to the children. “Our role is to make sure the patient can live as happy and loving a support as possible, without a sad face, and we give 24-hour leave to the families who are with the patients, sometimes we tell them about the procedures and processes. “They don’t have time to handle that.” schools, hospitals, social assistance…”. He often faces complex situations, such as the death of a sick minor. And he values ​​his parents’ flexibility. “We keep them smiling, our Seeing children playing with each other and falling down when they leave the room. They are heroines and heroes who I don’t know where they get strength from because they only live in the present, they are life for little children. While it takes time and is tiring. With us they can talk and drink coffee, something they can’t always do with their family and friends they don’t care about. Want to do,” he argues. This volunteer has experienced all types of interactions with patients with advanced illnesses and reports that the end of their lives are usually the same as theirs. “He loves to remember stories, tell us about his children, tell us about the beautiful moments of his life. What they want in that moment is to live in peace and to feel loved and remembered when they are gone. In the present, she visits a nursing home with a child patient and an elderly woman to treat the disease that is consuming her. But death does not always come in the short term. He shared the moments he spent with the ALS patient for almost a year.

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