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End of life equipment refers to the durable medical equipment (DME) and medical supplies used for end of life nursing care in a home-based or inpatient hospice setting. Medication is not the only aspect of end of life nursing care. Palliative care — oriented to relief of patient pain — includes pain medications, anxiety medications, a quiet environment, appropriate caregivers and equipment. Whatever its type, all end of life equipment functions toward the twin goals of patient safety and comfort. End of life equipment can include an electric hospital bed, a bedside commode, sheepskin heel boots and supplemental oxygen, among many other items.
An electric hospital bed is one of the most common types of end of life equipment. The railings can be raised and locked into position to protect patients from falling, as dying patients may be confused, disoriented or grossly overestimate their strength. The entire bed height can be raised to facilitate patient care by healthcare providers who then do not need to stoop and bend to perform bathing or bed linen changes. Electric hospital beds, as opposed to manual crank models, allow the patient to independently change the head, knee and foot positions for comfort. Many dying patients experience shortness-of-breath that can be minimized by raising the head of the bed 10 or more degrees.
Some bed-bound patients — especially those who are emaciated — can experience significant pain at their elbows, posterior shoulders, hips and heels. An alternating air mattress atop the hospital bed mattress can be an extremely valuable piece of end of life equipment by eliminating this type of discomfort and avoiding the development of pressure ulcers. If the patient is not emaciated or a full air mattress is not required, attention to a patient's heels is often necessary due to near-constant friction on this body area. Sheepskin-lined bed booties are a type of end of life equipment that is low tech but high comfort. Bedside tables, with a variety of position options, are particularly helpful to bed-bound patients who remain conscious and capable of some activities of daily living (ADLs).
End of life equipment often includes supplemental oxygen administered by nasal cannula. Shortness of breath can result from metastasis of a malignancy to the lungs, increased fluid in the lungs from heart failure or general bodily exhaustion. Supplemental oxygen can provide comfort for a dying patient by preventing possibly upsetting bodily responses to a lack of sufficient oxygen in the bloodstream. End of life supplies may also include glycerin swabs to avoid dry, chapped lips; ice chips to moisten the mouth and throat; and adult incontinence pads and diapers to keep urine or feces from irritating the skin.
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