Valdosta Daily Times

December 12, 2013

‘Caring for a Dying Patient’

Caregiver shares experiences in book

Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Working as a caregiver, Brenda Vickers Johnson has witnessed more than 2,000 deaths during her career.

To cope with these experiences and to help other caregivers, Johnson began writing down her thoughts on caring for the dying and recognizing and responding to their needs.

These recollections have become the book, “CNA and Caregivers: Caring for a Dying Patient,” available in two editions — the school edition and “Christian Focus Based on Christian Belief.”

“Being aware that the information on how to care for a dying patient at bedside does not exist for a caregiver, I decided to write on the subject because there is a need for the information,” Johnson says. “When I started documenting in 2004, my intention was to write only one book. As time passed, I began to realize that I had information for many different topics.”

She says certified nurse’s aide books and registered nursing books focus on how to treat and manage the body of a dying person, but these books do not address how to recognize and manage the signs and symptoms of a dying person nearing the end. She wants her books to fill this void.

Johnson’s book “allows the caregiver to think about a situation and how it may be handled before it occurs. For example, when the heart slows down, the lungs usually start filling with fluids resulting in respiratory distress,” Johnson says. “There are comfort medications that can help manage these symptoms and they are usually needed; however, there are also simple things any caregiver can do to help resolve the respiratory distress that does not involve medication. For example, if the patient’s lungs are already wet or you can hear the death rattle the person does not need humidified air. Pour the water out of the water container. As a person transitions toward their last breath, their needs change. The body shuts down in a systematic way because of that there are some things that can be anticipated and prepared for in advance in enabling a more comfortable transition for the person dying, family and caregivers.”

Though she has lived in the Dallas, Texas, area since 2000 and works as a hospice nurse and a community liaison for Angel Care Hospice in Richardson, Texas, Johnson is from Valdosta.

She is the daughter of Valdosta City Councilman Joseph “Sonny” Vickers. The oldest of four children, she attended Valdosta and Lowndes County schools. She attended Valdosta State.

In 1978, her mother, Jacqueline L. Vickers, died. The loss of her mother led to her career choice of caregiver.

She is adjusting to the additional career choice of author.

Johnson will return this weekend to Valdosta to sign her book. She tries returning home every two or three years.

She has written her next book, “Dying Truth,” scheduled to be published in March. She is also writing a children’s book that explains the dying process in a simple manner.

Through these books, Johnson hopes to promote understanding.

“The most difficult (aspect) for me is getting people to understand and accept the facts as they exist while helping them deal with their emotions,” she says. “My faith and belief help me cope with caring for the dying.”

Johnson also wishes people would remember to find forgiveness and say what needs saying at the end.

“We are a spirit, we have a soul and we live in a body. The body is dying and has the disease. Even if the person in a coma has Alzheimer’s or dementia, on their deathbed remember the body has that condition not the spirit and soul. At end of life at a certain point, the body is no longer in control; a person’s cognitive abilities are sharper than ever on their deathbed regardless of how they appear.”