Watching as someone you love struggles with a terminal illness is heartbreaking.
While you naturally don’t want to think about losing someone that you love, it is also important to remember that you play a valuable role in protecting their dignity and comfort at this stage in their life.
Right now, you are trying to learn more about hospice care, which is a strong sign that you need answers to your questions about how to care for your terminally ill loved one over the next few weeks or months.
Now that you are ready to learn more about hospice care, you can use this guide to help you know if it is time to add new options to your loved one’s current care plan.
What Is Hospice?
Hospice is a specialized type of care that involves a wide range of services that are carefully tailored to meet someone’s needs once they reach the point of being considered terminally ill.
In most situations, the person has progressed beyond or opted out of curative treatment and is now ready to focus on palliative care and end-of-life services.
When your loved one is ready for hospice, there are still many things that caregivers and nurses can do to help them cope with their disease. Symptom management, infection control and assistance with the activities of daily living are all things that a hospice service provider can do to make end-of-life care easier for everyone. Your family and loved one can also receive spiritual support that fits your beliefs and allows you to all find comfort during this difficult time.
Common Misconceptions About Hospice
Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about hospice care that continue to circulate today.
It is important for you to understand that calling for these services does not mean that you are giving up on your loved one. In fact, your loved one can change their care plan at anytime that they have a shift in their health or choose to pursue curative treatment that alleviates their need for hospice services.
You should also know that hospice is not a specific place. While some people choose to go to a long term care facility, others choose to receive hospice care services at home. For someone who only has a few weeks to live, a long term care facility often does not make sense.
If this is the type of situation that your loved one is in, then hospice care can allow your loved one to live out the rest of their time in the comfort of their home. Many families prefer the privacy and comfort that this arrangement provides since you can avoid things such as visiting hours and instead spend as much time together as possible.
Who Is Eligible for Hospice Care?
In most cases, your loved one will need to have a diagnosed disease or other health condition with a prognosis that involves them not being expected to live beyond six months. In some cases, your loved one may continue to live beyond six months after they begin to receive hospice care. If this happens, they can have their physician renew their eligibility so that they can continue to receive services that keep them comfortable.
Types of Services Provided by Hospice
The primary purpose of hospice care is to provide symptom management services that ease the discomforts that occur with a terminal illness. For instance, a hospice nurse can show your family how to provide natural pain relief care to your loved one such as therapeutic massage.
If medications are prescribed to address pain and other symptoms, then your loved one’s caregiver can help manage them all to make sure that they are taken correctly. Medication management becomes especially important as your loved one begins to take multiple prescriptions that are hard to keep track of.
Hospice services can also provide and help maintain equipment that your loved one needs to feel comfortable. Many families are uncomfortable with handling equipment for medical treatments such as oxygen tanks and catheters that require specialized training, and your loved one’s nursing and caregiving staff will be right there to handle it all so that you can focus on bonding.
Once your loved one has a hospice team in place, they also work with their physical to make sure that they receive all necessary medication treatments to preserve their health. They also constantly search for new ways to make your loved one happy, and you can trust that they will go above and beyond the call of duty to make all of your loved one’s preferences come true.
Building a Team of Support
Once you call for hospice, a needs assessment is conducted to find out what types of care your loved one requires. The findings from this report are then used to put together a team of compassionate people who all want to see your loved one and their family feel supported during trying times.
Spending upon your loved one’s needs, they may have licensed and registered nurses, highly-trained caregivers, volunteers and members of the clergy on their team. Each person that visits your loved one is capable of assisting with daily needs that apply to their level of training.
For instance, your loved one may have a nurse come in to perform their medical treatments such as wound care. A caregiver may also check vital signs and perform services such as modifying their bed positioning to prevent bedsores. As your loved one nears the end of their life, you can also receive spiritual support from clergy members that helps you all come to a place of acceptance.
Signs That It is Time to Call For Hospice
Knowing when to call for hospice is critical for making sure that your loved one does not suffer unnecessarily or that your family does not feel overwhelmed by all that needs to be done now.
Watch for these signs that your loved one is ready for hospice care, and remember that the members of the team that you reach out to will first make sure that they need this level of services.
- They can no longer do things such as get dressed or use the restroom on their own
- They experience frequent falls or have severely reduced mobility
- They have changes in their cognitive abilities
- They continue to have new issues despite their current care such as skin tears or bedsores
- You or another caregiver are uncomfortable performing tasks such as changing a catheter
- Your loved one has stopped curative treatments and wants to stay comfortable
Ways Hospice Care Benefits Caregivers
When you arrange for hospice care, you and your loved one’s other caregivers experience the relief that comes with having a full network of support.
Hospice workers allow you to take a respite from your duties or delegate tasks that feel out of your comfort zone.
You can also lean on hospice workers for support. They specialize in end-of-life services and know how to gently guide you and your loved one’s through the process of grief and loss as well as helping you to all continue to make the most of each day that you have together.
When your loved one has a terminal illness, you need to know that they have everything they need to continue to live their life with dignity. When you arrange for hospice care, you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you have done everything you can to enhance this stage of their life.