The most common statement I hear from former hospice families is, “Gee, I wish we had turned to hospice sooner.” Although each of us is mortal, death and dying are not something we spend much time thinking about. We’re too busy living day to day.
When a loved one receives a terminal diagnosis, it is hard for them, and for their families, to come to terms with the fact that time is limited. Time together suddenly becomes a precious commodity.
Hospice does its best work when life is measured in weeks or months, supporting not only the individual with an advanced illness by managing pain and other chronic disease symptoms, but supporting the family members who are caring for them.
Here are just a few of the ways hospice supports family caregivers:
- Hospice nurses teach you techniques to make your job easier and your loved one more comfortable, such as how to safely transfer from a wheelchair into a bed without straining your back.
- The hospice care team arranges delivery of medically appropriate supplies to make your loved one more comfortable while easing your burdens. Examples include walkers, wheelchairs, hospital beds and bedside commodes.
- A hospice nurse provides instructions and support to help you organize and administer medications, change dressings, and assist with care between visits. A hotline gives you around-the- clock access to a nurse.
- A hospice nursing assistant (HNA) frees up more family time by providing compassionate care that preserves your loved one’s dignity. The HNA assists as needed with toileting, showering, personal grooming, the changing of bed linens and other needs.
- It is vital that family caregivers take breaks to preserve their well-being. Hospice can help by providing care for your loved one at an in-patient care center, or by sending a trained respite care volunteer to your home so you can run errands, meet friends or relax and unwind.
- Members of the hospice care team — such as a social worker or an advanced practice nurse — can assist in completing an Advance Directive (AD). This is an important set of documents that communicate a family member’s end-of- life care preferences. Completion of these documents helps ensure your loved one’s wishes are honored.
- Frequently, family business affairs must be put in order. A hospice social worker can provide assistance in accessing needed community resources.
- Sometimes, family members are spread out across the country, or demanding schedules may make communicating with each other regularly challenging. Keeping families informed is important when a loved one is coping with an advanced illness. The hospice team helps keep the lines of communication open and helps the entire family understand what is happening, and what to expect.
- Bereavement specialists are available to help families prepare for the upcoming loss and to provide grief support following a loved one’s death.
— By Gwen Rifici, Home Care Team Leader Hospice of the Western Reserve
If you have questions or think your loved one may need help, Hospice of the Western Reserve’s referral team is available seven days a week, 24 hours a day. An in-person visit can be scheduled the same day it is needed. Call us at 800-707- 8921 or visit hospicewr.org.