End of life in nursing homes

End of life in nursing homes

Maria is 90 years old. She has been in a nursing home since she was 86. Her family visited her on a weekly basis until her dementia worsened with 88. Both the two sons and their daughter justified their absences for workable reasons. Visits were reduced to once every three to four months. The health personnel became Maria's family until the day of her death; day she died surrounded by her nurse and nurse who had taken care of her in recent years. The children could only see his lifeless body. The end of the life of the elderly in nursing homes is sometimes very lonely.

On the other hand, there are many families that accompany their elders until the last moments. Nevertheless, In this article we are going to focus on those people who die alone in the residences. For this, there will be the testimony of a nursing assistant and a nurse, who work with older people and are daily witnesses of this abandonment. By express will of both workers, their names will be changed and the center where they work will not be mentioned. Raquel will be our assistant and Carmen the nurse.


  • 1 End of life
  • 2 Loneliness
  • 3 End of life, loneliness and consequences
  • 4 Health personnel: the new family at the end of life
  • 5 Conclusion

End of life

The end of life is an important moment, both individually and collectively. On one side, the person is faced with a situation in which he knows that everything he knows will end. Our identity disappears. At this point, each person can have their own beliefs: eternal life, reincarnation, the existence of nothingness, etc. The point is that the personal project that we had started since we were born comes to an end. For all this, it is one of the most complex moments we can live.

On an individual level, if we are aware, we must accept that we are turning off. On a social or family level, we have to get to the idea that our grandfather, our grandmother, our father or our mother, will cease to be. In this way, the death of a relative can be a stage of mourning. A process through which we must learn to live without that person. In the final moments of a life, many relatives tend to be invaded by guilt. The feeling of guilt seizes them and they regret not having spent more time with their elders.


Many professionals who work in residences frequently report the loneliness that many of our elders live at the time of death. Their families leave them and die alone. So nurses, nurses and auxiliaries, become your new family and support. However, this loneliness not only occurs at the time of his death, but he has been crawling since family members stopped visiting his father or mother.

Raquel, nursing assistant, says that in his residence "the worst time is Christmas". Explain that, for example, the elderly "They wait for Christmas Eve, but family members call you and tell you that they are going to ski and will not come to see their elders, and they tell us, not them". He also comments that other relatives "A few minutes come and tell them that they are going to eat outside but that they cannot go because it would be harmful". Raquel recounts in a devastating way that in the same way that all this happens, some relatives "they just don't come".

End of life, loneliness and consequences

As Marta Rodríguez (2009) states: "the progressive impoverishment of all social, family, cultural reinforcements, vulnerability to diseases, sense organs, intellectual functions, etc., trigger instability and feelings of helplessness in the elderly, and is that loneliness can have serious negative consequences on health in the physical, psychological and social plane. "Here are some of the physical, psychological and social consequences that loneliness can entail.

Physical consequences

  • Weakness of the immune system.
  • Headache.
  • Heart problems
  • Digestive problems.
  • Difficulty to sleep.

Psychological consequences

  • Depression.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Social consequences

  • Abuse of party-line telephone lines.
  • Social prejudices

Health personnel: the new family at the end of life

As Marta Rodríguez (2009) also states: "One of the methods to address the problem of loneliness in the elderly are health services". Similarly, the two health professionals interviewed ensure that both they and the rest of the health personnel become the new family. Our elders not only seek medical care, but also need love, affection, be heard and understood. Because many families do not, the toilets adopt this role.

Raquel, the interviewed nurse, says that the degree of complicity with the elder is such that "We had a bad time when an old man died due to the connection that had been created". Our nurse ensures that "Being the only ones who are close to the old man in his last months of life, he comes to consider us of his family. It is a pity to see how they die without their loved ones". In this way, we observe the great importance of health personnel for our elders.


Every time we live in a more individualized, competitive and functional society. With the "functional" concept, reference is made to what serves us. The elderly have been relegated to a second and third level because their functionality is not what it was. Years ago, the elderly population was considered a source of knowledge, experience and wisdom. Even in some societies they are still considered as such, so they are given great respect and care. However, the thought that only that which produces something tangible is valid, makes us abandon them in residences.

Many seem to forget the love, affection and care that parents gave them for many years of their lives. In this way, when children have to take care of parents, they forget, they have no time to lose. Obviously, this does not happen in all cases, since many elders receive the attention they deserve. Even so, as long as older people remain abandoned in residences, it will mean that we still have a lot to learn.

Yesavage Senior Depression Scale


Rodríguez, M. (2009). Loneliness in the old man. Gerokomos, 20 (4).