When someone you love enters hospice, it’s normal to feel helpless and stressed. Learning what to expect from the process can help you feel more grounded, and it provides a better understanding of how you can play an active role in supporting your loved one. Read on for important information about hospice and what occurs throughout the course of care.
Members of the Hospice Care Team
Several professionals normally work alongside family members at maintaining quality of life for those in hospice. Generally speaking, there will be a physician, nurse, social worker, hospice aide, and chaplain. The hospice social worker will play a particularly interactive role, helping you and your loved one communicate about what is happening, coordinating care, and ensuring your loved one’s desires and needs are fully met. After your loved one passes, this person will also likely secure emotional support for family members, so you have assistance through the grieving period.
End-of-Life Decisions and Goals
While talking about illness and death is often emotional and uncomfortable, it’s an important time to do so. If you haven’t already, have a conversation about things like goals related to medical care and where your loved one wishes to live out the remainder of their life. If they wish to move to an assisted living community, setting forth wishes can ease the mind of your loved one, and help settle the minds of family members.
You should also ask your loved one if they have life insurance so that you get a better idea of any costs that you may need to pay after your loved one’s passing. If they’re not sure whether they have a life insurance policy, look through any paperwork they have in their home, or speak with their doctor, friends, or spiritual leader.
Before your loved one begins hospice care, it’s important to know who will be the one to make decisions for your loved one when they are no longer able to do so. Make sure that your loved one has a living will and power of attorney so that any financial or medical decisions made on your loved one’s behalf are legally authorized.
Hospice Care vs. Other Treatment Types
The transition into hospice care indicates your loved one is nearing the end of life’s journey. Those who enter hospice have elected to stop attempting to cure their illness, and their care is instead focused on comfort and quality of life. Alternatively, curative treatments are aimed at curing a condition, and therefore are oftentimes aggressive and stressful, such as chemotherapy. Palliative care is focused on treating symptoms and discomfort, helping someone to live a better quality of life with the disease. End-of-life care often includes some element of palliative care.
As Vitas explains, hospice care is tailored to the needs of each patient, and can range from general in-home services to inpatient care at an appropriate facility. Hospice inpatient care typically occurs when the patient’s symptoms need to be managed more adequately for a short while before returning to their home.
When the End is Near
There are several symptoms that indicate your loved one is nearing the final phase of life. Generally speaking, patients experience decreased appetite and start sleeping more. They may become socially withdrawn, and if your loved one wants more private time, try to respect those wishes. When time is close, certain vital signs will change, and you might notice altered breathing, confusion, and reduced body temperature. When the final hours arrive, simply staying close and offering comfort are the best things you can do.
Hospice helps people make the most of what time is left. Get to know the team that will provide support, and ask questions when you have them. Putting quality of life first can ease your mind, as well as those you love.