Be curious about who they are. Explore their heritage, culture and family. How do they make decisions about their health? Curiosity stops you from making assumptions and prevents unconscious bias.
2. Allow them to tell the story of their life before they became unwell. What were their hopes, fears and expectations? What were the highs and lows in their life, and how did they deal with them? Their narrative gives an insight into the meaning they attach to their life, and how they will deal with their future.
3. Try to uncover how they have dealt with the changes from their past health to their current condition. Knowing their ability to adjust and accept these changes can help us support their future care. Remember that people need time to process, if they can, that they may be dying from their illness, rather than just living with it.
4. Ask the family of an unconscious person to help you understand the person and their life. Do they like to be in control? Have they been a worrier? Family appreciate a chance to talk about their loved one. Including them involves them as part of the team, and shows how interested you are in caring for the person.
5. Listen to the different perspectives people will have about the person. Do they all see the person the way you do? People will trust us in differing amounts. The best insights into a person come from an amalgamation of these views and clarifying the differences.
About Leeroy William
Associate Professor Leeroy William is a Palliative Medicine Specialist in Melbourne, Australia. He has worked in Palliative Care across the UK, New Zealand and Australia and runs the Palliative Medicine Teaching Facebook Page. He is passionate about individualising end-of-life care, communication skills, and supporting compassionate practice. You can follow him on Twitter at @drleeroyw and @pallmeded.