When you are helping a family member find hospice care, your goal is to best support the person’s comfort and medical care, helping to improve their lifestyle as much as possible. If your family member has a life-limited illness, then you want to make the most of the time they have.
Hospice care is designed to support the patient, family members, and caregivers during this time. Locating available hospice providers is one of the best things you can do to access the necessary services you and your loved one require.
What is Hospice Care?
When a patient and medical providers discontinue disease-fighting treatments, it’s time to bring in hospice care. These services involve a team of providers, including doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, home health aides, clergy, and any other services the person needs during this time.
Not only does hospice care focus on providing physical comfort for the patient, but other aspects of this service encompass daily care. Additionally, families find it crucial to support the person’s spiritual and emotional needs.
These hospice services are available in any location where the patient is spending the final days of their life:
- Hospice care facilities
- Nursing homes
- Assisted-living residences
- At Home
Full-service hospice care is essential for monitoring the person’s end-of-life needs while coordinating family and professional caregiving services. The goal is to address the person’s full spectrum of needs, creating an ideal care plan that honors their preferences.
Family Support for Hospice Care
While many medical providers are involved in hospice care, the family often takes an integral role during this time. As the caregiver or family member for someone with a terminal condition, you need to know how to support the person while also caring for your own needs.
Family members can carry various responsibilities during this time. For example, you might be providing for the person’s daily needs, such as hygiene and grooming. At the same time, there are big decisions you must face regarding medical care, funeral planning, and more.
Working with an experienced hospice provider is one of the best things you can do to access the support your family needs during this time. Keep reading to learn more about the best hospice care tips for families – so you can help your loved one and support the needs of other family members as well.
Tip 1: Ask for Help
Caregiving can take a toll, especially when caregiving continues for weeks or months. Even if you have the best intentions to provide the required services for your loved one, there are limitations on how much you can provide.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Bringing in professional hospice providers is one of the best investments for the patient and supporting family members. These professional services optimize the patient’s comfort while also minimizing the risk of caregiver burnout.
Tip 2: Be an Advocate
Remember: the decisions you are making are not about you. The most important thing you can do is consider the needs and preferences of your loved one when you are making these critical decisions.
For example, understand the person’s wishes for the way they want to spend their final days. Then, keep those desires and requests at the center of all decisions you make to fulfill their wishes.
There are times when other family members might disagree with the decisions. But you need to hold your ground and stay true to the hospice care plan pre-determined by the patient.
Tip 3: Maintain Clear Communication
Communication is essential when many people are serving the patient’s needs. Not only do you need to communicate about schedule management and medications, but it’s also necessary to listen to concerns and advice offered by other people.
Keep the lines of communication open. Be proactive about sharing updates with other family members. Also, reach out to medical providers and daily helpers if you find areas where the patient might need a little more support.
Tip 4: Plan Ahead
The difficult decisions are much more stressful when facing them in the critical moments of a person’s life. Therefore, whenever possible, be proactive about talking to the person about their end-of-life plan. Engaging in the conversations now will make it easier to honor their preferences in the future.
These conversations help you avoid common problems down the road. It’s best to plan ahead with decisions such as choosing a medical power of attorney and creating a written statement of preferences, wishes, and goals for end-of-life health care.
Tip 5: Know the Signs Leading to the End
When a loved one is nearing the end of this journey, then you can bring in extra medical care or offer additional support as needed. Even though you can’t predict the exact timeline, there are a few signs that indicate the person is in the final days or hours of life:
- Loss of appetite
- Increased drowsiness
- Sleeping more often
- Agitation, restlessness, or confusion
- Change in breathing patterns
- Crackling or gurgling sounds when breathing
- Blue coloring, coldness, or swelling in the feet and hands
- Talking about seeing someone who has already died
Tip 6: Supporting Emotional Needs
While hospice care often centers on the person’s physical comfort, also consider their emotional health during this time. It’s common to experience conflicting emotions and distress when reaching the end of life.
Offer soothing and reassuring support to provide comfort during this time. Sometimes, it’s as simple as sitting with the person and holding their hand – creating a calm environment with soft music, low lighting, and a space free of distractions.
Talk about memories and share stories. Be proactive about inviting other people to visit, so they can say goodbye and offer their well-wishes. If family and friends can’t come over in person, then you might coordinate phone or video calls.
Tip 7: Honor Spiritual Requests
When the person holds religious views, it is often a priority for them to visit with religious leaders or clergy. The patient is reflecting on the meaning of life, as well as their faith, beliefs, and values.
Sometimes, the person feels the need to go through the forgiveness process with other people. If desired, you can bring in a spiritual leader for a final visit and conversation.
Tip 8: Providing Comfort in the Final Stages
As a caregiver, you can provide additional support and comfort in the final days and hours. Here are a few recommendations to address some of the most common problems that occur during this time:
- Loss of Appetite: Keep the mouth moist with ice chips or a damp sponge. Feed the person small spoonfuls of soft foods.
- Pain Management: Follow medical instructions for giving the patient pain medication. If the medication doesn’t seem sufficient for the pain, then talk to medical providers to adjust the treatment plan.
- Temperature Management: Be aware of the person’s body temperature. Adjust the room temperature and blankets if the person seems too cold or too hot.
- Facial Dryness: Watch for signs of dryness around the eyes and mouth. Use a damp cloth to provide relief. Apply petroleum jelly or lip balm to the lips.
- Skin Issues: If the skin looks irritated, apply lotion to soothe the surface. Proactively move the person to reduce the risk of bedsores.
- Heavy Breathing: When the breathing becomes labored, raise the head of the bed and elevate the person’s head slightly with pillows. Talk to the medical team about using oxygen or medications for comfort.
- Incontinence: It’s common for incontinence to occur. Ask about the use of a catheter. Place incontinence pads to simplify cleanup.
- Confusion or Agitation: Keep your voice soothing and reassuring. Offer a gentle touch, such as holding the person’s hand – but only if it is comforting. Seek medical help if severe agitation is occurring.
Tip 9: Maintain a Positive Attitude
While grief and loss are common emotions you will experience during this time, look for ways to infuse joy and positivity each day. Smile, share funny memories, and bring things that will help to lift the person’s mood.
Sometimes, a gratitude practice can be a powerful way to improve perspective during the most challenging moments. Talk about things that bring you joy. If it’s part of the person’s beliefs, you might consider sharing a prayer for comfort and peace.
Tip 10: Stay By their Side in Vigil
Many families choose to show support by keeping vigil in the last few hours of life. During this time, you can continue touching and talking to the person to offer comfort and support.
If you think the patient would like to share this time with others, invite close family members to participate. Consider scheduling blocks of time to ensure the person is never alone during these final stages of life.
Tip 11: Bring Their Favorite Foods
What types of foods does the person enjoy most? Prepare these meals and bring them to the bedside. While it’s important to consider nutrition during this time, the enjoyment of food is another priority.
Even if the person isn’t able to eat much, they might enjoy tasting some of their favorite dishes. Ask your family member if they have any preferences about what you bring to the next visit.
In addition to feeding the patient, it can also be helpful to offer meals to the caregiving family members. Keep leftovers in the fridge or freezer, so there is always a healthy, home-cooked meal available when someone is hungry.
Tip 12: Entertainment and Activities
Options are limited, especially when a loved one is in bed. But you might be able to bring activities to change up the monotonous routine each day.
Keep it simple. Here are a few ideas that the person might enjoy, depending on their health and capabilities:
- Printed books
- Knitting supplies
- Adult coloring books
- Notes from friends
- Holiday decorations
Consider the person’s preferences so you can find ways to help them continue engaging in their favorite activities.
Tip 13: Help with Household Responsibilities
Small acts of service around the house can be helpful for creating a peaceful environment. Offer to help with tasks such as light housekeeping, meal preparation, washing the dishes, or doing the laundry.
If you are coordinating caregiving services, post a list on the fridge outlining some of the tasks that need to be done. This list provides information, so friends and family members know how to provide support when they have time.
Tip 14: Offer a Listening Ear
Sometimes, a patient wants to talk about their circumstances. Other times, a person might prefer to avoid the subject in conversation.
Ask your loved one: do you want to talk about it? Then offer a listening ear if they prefer to discuss their health or anything else that comes to mind.
Also, don’t underestimate the power of sitting in silence. If the person isn’t in the mood to talk, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to leave the room. Instead, ask them if you can sit with them in a quiet environment.
Hospice Care: For Family and Patients
Accessing available hospice care is an essential step to care for your loved one in their final days, weeks, and months of life. Most people qualify for hospice services through Medicare or insurance coverage, which means the family doesn’t need to pay for expensive services out-of-pocket.
Take advantage of the available support that is needed during this unique time of life. Not only will your loved one benefit, but hospice care is also essential to care for the needs of other family members as well.
As you are evaluating your options for hospice care, we invite you to schedule a consultation with us at Avatar Healthcare. Our team of specialists offers a full range of services to help you access everything you need, including home health, hospice, and personal home care services.
Our personalized services help your loved one maintain the highest levels of comfort and dignity in the final stages of life. Call Avatar Healthcare at (844) 422-5528.