Dying in the Ukraine: A Challenge to Care

graveSince 2005, faith community nurse Pam D’Andre has been serving patients and training nurses and volunteers to provide health services in Kiev. In this excerpt from her article in the April/June 2019 issue of JCN, Pam describes how she and team members cared for a long-time patient at the end of his life.

Hospice is a new concept in Ukraine. Although many hospice facilities are opening, the concept of wholistic philosophy and care in a nontraditional setting is not widely accepted.

It is difficult to manage pain in a timely manner, for instance, because there are many documents that need to be obtained and signed before the dying person can receive relief. It is difficult to allow people to die with dignity or be told that they are dying. It is generally accepted that the patient is the last to know about his/her diagnosis, and to maintain hope, the family often hides information from the patient.

Positive strides are being made, but much work needs to be done, especially in the area of Ukrainian healthcare professionals accepting the dying process as a part of life. The art of allowing a person to die with dignity is still being worked out in many hospice facilities throughout Ukraine.

The day before Vitalik (long-time bedridden patient) died, we visited to apply an external catheter and change his dressings. We talked a bit, fed him, prayed, and called the priest to give Last Rites and Communion.

The care coordinator received a call the next morning, stating that Vitalik had passed away peacefully and without complaints during the night. To know that he was at peace when he died gave us confidence that we had provided him with loving, wholistic care. We were able to provide physical and spiritual care, not only to him, but also to his sister and others who were watching. Since Vitalik's death, his brother-in-law has been attending church regularly and is seeking spiritual growth.

Read more about the challenges and progress of nursing in the full article, Ukrainian Faith Community Nursing: Meeting the Challenge to Care in the current issue of the Journal of Christian Nursing. Subscriptions are included with NCF membership. Explore more benefits of membership here.

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