DRESSING PATIENTS IN INTENSIVE AND PALLIATIVE CARE: IT IS POSSIBLE AND IT IS IMPORTANT!
With our new adapted patient clothing design – a reversible short-sleeved t-shirt – finally arrived at our warehouse and available for purchase, I thought it might be a good moment to explain why we have decided to create this unusual top and the many people and conversations that have inspired it.
On the one hand our top is a simplified version of our existing long-sleeved version. It has a v-neckline, which is much more comfortable to wear in bed than a round neck – and opens at the front and arms to make dressing with IV lines, drains and monitors possible. Made in our super soft, natural jersey fabric and available in navy blue, soft grey and dusky pink, the top has an elegant chest pocket and like all INGA Wellbeing clothing is an attractive, comfortable and functional addition to our range. It is great for summer and another stylish option in our range.
But it is also so much more than that.
Because of the v-neckline at the back, the top can be reversed and laid onto an immobile patient. People that are in intensive care, palliative care or require long-term care due to paralysis, can be easily dressed in this top and the sides tucked in gently around their body to give the impression of being fully dressed. The special neckline means that there will be no unpleasant sensation of pressure on their throats, which we know from personal experience and from nurses is a very uncomfortable and sometimes even claustrophobic feeling. Designs are available for men and women.
This feature has been requested by many nurses as a complement to our back-opening (night) dress which can also be easily placed on an immobile or fatigued patient and tucked in at the sides, rather than closed behind. Indeed, we know from some of our customers that the dress has been worn by patients in intensive and palliative care and has worked well.
“My aunt loved the dress. It was a great gift to give at a difficult moment and enabled her to be more active and feel better. The intensive care nurses really like it too,” reported Valentine.
However, we did not have an option for men and the nurses wanted something for their male patients as well as another option for women. Nurses at a long-term rehabilitation hospital in Germany and a hospice in Belgium made the point very touchingly to us that not only is it important for conscious patients to feel dressed and to keep their dignity, but it is also very important for their family to see their loved ones dressed. Sitting for long hours at the bedside of a very sick, or terminally ill, relative or friend is extremely distressing. The patient’s appearance is often already very altered and they are connected to a great deal of medical devices, so getting close emotionally and physically is difficult. Breaking down those barriers by dressing the patient ‘normally’ goes someway to restoring that precious relationship.
Indeed, I know from personal experience of sitting at the bedside of my daughter in intensive care and my mother in palliative care just how vital clothes are in those highly-charged and difficult situations and I wanted to share with you how the advice of a hospice nurse helped to create INGA Wellbeing patient clothing and the reversible top we are selling today.
When my mother moved from hospital to a hospice for what we afterwards realised would be the last weeks of her life, the focus of her care changed from combating the ovarian cancer that had spread to her lungs to making her comfortable, minimising any pain and ensuring that she and her family were well cared for.
Although I had already begun to make an early prototype of what has now become INGA Wellbeing clothing, it was the advice of a nurse at the hospice that finally convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that clothing – the right clothing – played a vital role in ensuring a person’s dignity and comfort. That wonderful lady encouraged me to buy some pretty nightdresses and cut them up the back so that they could be laid onto my mother instead of the hospital gowns she was still wearing. I rushed around the shops trying to find lightweight, cotton nightdresses that were not too old lady-ish for my elegant mum and spent the evening cutting and sewing.
The next day the transformation was incredible. Washed, her short, post-chemo hair brushed, and dressed in one of my creations, my mother smiled and announced that she felt clean and fresh and seemed to almost reclaim her body and spirit. Reinvigorated, she spoke with more strength in her voice, joked and laughed with us and, very importantly, asked us to complete some unfinished tasks that were important to her. In her own eyes, as well as in ours, she was once again Inga, Patrick’s wife, my and Abi’s mother, Lorelai’s grandmother. We re-connected. Our family balance was restored. She was in charge again, not me, not my sister or our father. She called the shots and said what she wanted and needed.
I have no doubt at all that that simple action of dressing normally made that possible and when she passed away a few days later, I was devastated but I had no regrets. We had erased the previous three years of patient life and restored our family’s normality. When I think back to those days, I remember her not as sick, but as dignified, peaceful and in control. That nurse’s advice was an incredible blessing and the experience inspired a clothing range that I sincerely hope will help others at such important moments in their lives.