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More Than A Failing Heart: Patients and Families Talk About End-of-Life Care cover image

More Than A Failing Heart: Patients and Families Talk About End-of-Life Care 2002

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Fanlight Productions, 32 Court St., 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 800-876-1710
Producer n/a
Director n/a
VHS, color, 25 min.

Health Sciences, Aging, Communication, Death and Dying, Human Rights, Nursing

Date Entered: 11/09/2018

Reviewed by Gloria Maxwell, Reference Librarian, Penn Valley Community College

Starting with the premise that everyone has a right to medical care that is “competent, coordinated, and compassionate,” this film looks at health care through the eyes of patients and family members facing either terminal illnesses or end of life care. Despite competent physicians, surgeons and clinicians, what seems to be lacking, in many instances, is any direct connection with the patient and family members. From the voices of those filmed comes the plea, and reminder, to treat them as individuals, as people first, and patients second, and to involve family members in the decision-making process. The best-case scenarios are fewer than those that are described with tears and regrets.

Facing terminal illnesses and/or the loss of family members, these individuals speak with frankness and honesty about the quality of care they received themselves, or witnessed the type of care given to their family members. Their ability to articulate the best and the worst of their health care experiences combine to describe the universal needs of everyone that will someday find themselves in this situation. Caregivers are reminded to treat patients as individuals, to see them as they once were - through the eyes of family members or those who know them best. As one woman asks, “If this was your parents, how would you treat them?” They plead for patients to be treated as individuals, for caregivers to get to know their patients and then try to think of them as they were when they were healthy. They also need to listen to the family, communicate information sensitively, provide emotional support as well as physical comfort. Family members want to be treated as part of the healthcare team and can provide important insight into the character and habits of the patient. Those interviewed describe treating patients like children as being akin to emotional mistreatment. Kindness and making patients feel human, not like they’re victims, is critical to providing dignity for end of life care. Compassionate nurses and physicians can drastically enhance and improve patient care. The film ends with the following statement:

Patient and family needs:
  • To treat every individual with dignity and respect,
  • To attend to family and caregiver needs,
  • To provide physical comfort and emotional support,
  • To communicate information sensitively,
  • To share decision-making and foster a sense of control.

Developed as one of the training tools in The Toolkit Project, this is a haunting and profound visual reminder of the importance of knowing the individual, the significance of quality of care, and the role that families can - and should - play as part of the overall healthcare team. Highly recommended for all health care programs, and colleges with nursing and medical programs.