How Hospice Helps Caregivers
Caregiver Support from Hospice
Receiving a prescription for hospice can be frightening for a caregiver. While dying at home sounds wonderful, it is very challenging and at times overwhelming. Most caregivers are placed in this role due to their love or strong attachment to a dying loved one. Caregivers want and will try to do whatever is required to make their loved one comfortable. These tasks come at a great personal cost for the caregiver in terms of physical, emotional and mental energy. Hospice can help a caregiver manage the tasks of caring for the dying and also provide emotional support during this time.
Hospice Educates the Caregiver
Caring for a loved one 24 hours per day can be frightening. Caregivers wonder if they know enough to give the correct medications, to prevent falls in the bathroom, to use medical equipment and so forth. It can also be scary to wonder how and when death will occur.
One of the things I have always enjoyed about hospice care is the education of the caregiver. Hospice teaches the caregiver how to use the "nurse on call" system, how and when to give medications, what signs to watch for that could indicate problems or the need for another nursing visit. Hospice teaches the caregiver how to use all medical equipment safely and how to perform basic tasks easily and with confidence.
By receiving this education with consistent reinforcement from the hospice each day and week, caregivers become confident and more sure of themselves. Their stress level is minimized. Fear of the unknown is eased by knowing that help is a phone call away.
Hospice Helps with Bathing and Dressing
Of all of the tasks of caregiving, bathing and dressing are the most physically exhausting. Whether the bath is provided in the normal shower using a shower bench or in the bed this task requires bending, stooping, physically supporting and maneuvering the patient. Once clean, the patient must be dressed for the day. When mobility is limited it is difficult to help another person dress.
Thankfully, hospice can help with the services of a home health aide. The home health aide is a master of bathing and dressing and supports the caregiver by performing this task. Home health aide services are supervised by a nurse and can be scheduled several times per week to maintain personal hygiene.
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Hospice Manages Medications
Managing daily medications and dosages can be frightening for a caregiver. Then, when changes to medications are made, a caregiver can feel confused. If medications are given different ways (by mouth, under the tongue, on the skin, injection, IV) a caregiver can easily become overwhelmed.
Once hospice care begins, hospice nurses take over management of medications. The nurses take time to educate and train the caregiver on how to administer all medications. Hospice nurses will make sure that a caregiver is adequately trained to safely administer whatever medications are required.
Hospice nurses will fill the medication box (pill box) weekly. They order medication refills and even pick up refill medications or new prescriptions from the pharmacy. The hospice nurse works closely with the patient and doctor when new medications are needed to provide pain or other symptom management.
Hospice Supports with Companionship
Caregivers can often feel isolated and alone. Hospice is a unique profession in that care is provided for the patient, family and the caregiver. Because the task of caregiving can occupy the majority of their time, caregivers tend to stop participating in activities they previously enjoyed outside of the home or with friends. While this is natural, it can also lead to caregiver burnout.
The hospice care team brings many caring professionals to caregivers. This provides relief in many different ways. Caregivers are able to express thoughts and feelings in a safe environment. Hospice volunteers can help caregivers have a few hours of time out of the home for a change of pace. The hospice chaplain can tend to spiritual needs for both the patient and caregiver. The social worker can provide grief counseling for the caregiver and also assist with finding additional at home care resources.
What develops over time with hospice care are very deep and intimate personal relationships among hospice patients, caregivers and the hospice team. At the end of life new relationships are formed that are transformational to all involved. Through these relationships caregivers are mentally and emotionally supported.
Hospice Helps Financially
Medications, medical equipment, nutritional supplements and medical supplies are expensive. All of these are provided through the hospice at little or no cost to the patient or family. I have often referred to these items as the "dollars and cents benefits of hospice."
Being a caregiver often means lost work time and a loss of income. Any financial assistance that is offered should be taken during this time. Hospice provides a wealth of support to the patient and caregiver - physically, emotionally and financially.
Caregiver support is lovingly and abundantly provided by hospices. There is no need for a caregiver to go it alone. Contact your local hospice for more information about how hospice can help.
Learn More About Hospice
- How to Choose Home Health Care or Hospice
Home health care focuses on healing and recovery while hospice focuses on comforting the terminally ill. Understanding the goals of medical treatment is vital to choosing either type of care.
- When to Get Hospice Care
Knowing when the time is right for hospice can be challenging. If we pay close attention to cues from the patient or doctor, hospice care can be started at the appropriate time.
- Why to Get Hospice Early
Hospice is designed to be a 6 month benefit. Most people get only 2-3 weeks of care. If started early, hospice can provide a wealth of resources to a patient and family in need.