How To Help A Loved One During End of Life

How to Help a Loved One During End of Life

Receiving a terminal diagnosis is life altering. It can feel like the world is suddenly spinning out of control. Amidst the storm of evolving emotions, patients with chronic illness and their families will face a multitude of decisions. All aspects of life are affected by terminal illness. From career loss to financial planning and even possible financial difficulty, end of life issues are far reaching.

Having an entire team of professionals all with the goal of supporting a loved one at the end of life can be a huge relief of burden. Facing death is never easy and no one should have to do it alone. Knowing how to properly care for a patient at each stage of the dying process can bring peace and dignity to a difficult journey. Let’s explore how hospice services can help your loved one.

What Is Hospice?

Hospice care is a service that can be provided to terminally ill patients who elect to have comfort care only at the end of life. To qualify, a doctor must certify that if an illness follows its typical course, the patient may have six months or less to live. The focus of hospice is to help each person to live out their remaining days with peace, comfort and dignity and comfort care is aimed at ensuring a patient maintains quality of life and that all symptoms are managed.

An interdisciplinary team is assembled for each patient and it typically includes the attending physician, a Registered Nurse (RN) case manager, home health aide, social worker, and a chaplain. The physician will oversee all care while on hospice. The RN case manager will set up regular nursing visits at the patient’s home and will provide the bulk of the medical care. Home health aides provide help with activities of daily living such as bathing, when the patient requires that assistance. Additional support is provided to the patient and their families through the social worker. Chaplains are also available for spiritual care.

Three Ways Hospice Can Help At End Of Life: Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Support

Physical Support

No More Stressful Office Appointments

Receiving a terminal diagnosis does not mean that a patient no longer wants or needs medical care. The care at the end of life just looks a bit different and has a new set of goals. Countless trips to doctor appointments, hospitals, and treatment facilities may no longer be desirable or even feasible near the end of life, which can be a huge barrier to receiving medical attention. Hospice care is tailored to the individual needs of each patient at all stages of illness to help maintain comfort.

One major benefit of having hospice services is that the patient doesn’t ever need to leave home for medical support. Hospice team members travel to the patient. “Home” is where the patient resides whether it is a house, an apartment, a room in a family member’s home, or a nursing home. The advantage of home care is that all patients in every stage of the dying process have access to quality medical care as often as they need it without the worry of traveling to get it.

Teaching And Guidance On End Of Life Care

Fear of the unknown is a thief of both time and peace in families who have a terminally ill loved one. Patients with terminal illness can experience progressive weakness and they may be totally bed bound, have cognitive decline, and even lose their ability to communicate. Another frequent loss is the ability to control bladder and bowel movements. If one is not prepared to handle the changing physical needs that will arise, it can be a setup for stress and difficulty coping with the burden of care. The RN case manager will guide the family through each stage of change and educate on how best to support the patient with declining function.

The patient’s primary caregiver, usually a family member, will be responsible for seeing to their daily needs, however the nurse will support these efforts by demonstrating the proper techniques to care for any wounds, medical devices, and care routines. Home Health aides are available to physically assist the caregiver with ADL’s such as bathing the patient. Having someone to rely on for physical support when a patient is facing decline can be pivotal.

Nursing Care And Symptom Management

A benefit of the patient-centered care model used in hospice is that if changes to the care plan are needed to manage symptoms, those changes can occur quickly. The hospice nurse establishes and maintains excellent communication with patients and their caregivers to ensure that each patient’s medical needs are met. The interdisciplinary team of providers meet regularly to discuss each care plan, symptoms, and any other factors to adjust the plan if needed so that it remains appropriate and effective.

Having a plan of care in place is a key factor in maintaining patient comfort. Families who receive hospice support often report higher satisfaction with the care their loved ones received at end of life.

Since the main goal of medical care while on hospice is symptom management, a heavy focus is placed on patient comfort. The goals include pain control measures, mental and emotional symptom management, and meeting spiritual health needs. Hospice team members recognize the importance of attending to all aspects of patient care in mind, body, and spirit.

Emotional Support

Hospice Is More Than Just Medical Care

Grief can be a heavy load to carry when caring for a loved one who is facing impending death. Once a terminal diagnosis has been made, many patients and their families enter the stages of grieving immediately. Frequently each member of the family will be at different stages of grief and may even struggle to handle it completely. Grief can interfere with the ability to provide care of a terminally ill loved one without the proper support in place.

Coping with grief is complex, there is no linear way to go through it as it is such an individual process. Hospice is a rich resource with professionals who understand the issues surrounding grief.

Caregivers Need Support Too

Grieving takes time, energy, emotion, and even taps into spiritual reserves. Grief can affect all areas of a person’s life. Work, hobbies, church attendance, relationships and self care routines can all be interrupted by long term illness. In an already stressed individual, grief can be overwhelming. The hospice team understands that while caregivers are juggling their own personal lives, as well as the care of a terminally ill loved one, there must be time to grieve. Life changes in the moments leading up to death. To support the changes, hospice provides much needed emotional support.

One way hospice helps meet the emotional needs of families facing end of life issues is through bereavement support. This service is typically provided through the help of the nurse, social worker and chaplain. Once an assessment of the emotional, social, mental, and spiritual needs of a patient has been made, the social worker is able to make the appropriate referral for services. One such referral type is to locate a support group to further aid the patient and family in the grieving process.

Bereavement services are available to the family for some time after their loved one has passed. Grief doesn’t end with death, and neither should the support. Taking advantage of the extra benefits can go far in the healing process. Hospice helps families in the journey to heal after their loved one is gone.

Spiritual Support

Spirituality is very personal. End of life issues can cause some to have a crisis of faith. Spirituality isn’t necessarily related to a specific religion. Some people don’t even identify with a particular religious group. More accurately defined, spirituality  is a set of personal fundamental beliefs. Belief systems can be stressed by terminal illness and the prospect of death; leading to spiritual unrest. The mind, body, and spirit are all intertwined and each must be cared for in order to keep a loved one comfortable at the end of life.

Hospice chaplains are well equipped to offer spiritual support to the patient and their family members. Spiritual support is often provided by a non-denominational Chaplain. This allows for the inclusion of all faiths. Specific ceremonial requests or religious traditions can also be carried out with the help of the Hospice chaplain.

Hospice Las Vegas

Many families seek additional support after receiving a terminal diagnosis, when treatment options are exhausted, or when the patient no longer wishes to pursue aggressive treatment. Families who are seeking ways to help their loved one during the end of life can benefit tremendously by Hospice services. The Hospice team of providers are dedicated to supporting families who are facing end of life issues through excellent medical, emotional, and spiritual care. You don’t have to face it alone. Contact us to see how Shining Light Hospice can make the difference you’ve been looking for.

Author: Julie Chapman LVN is a nurse writer with a passion for nurturing people. With 14 years of experience, she has worked with various specialties; however, hospice is the niche she feels the most called to.

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