Deciding to place a loved one in hospice care is never easy, but it is sometimes necessary to ensure comfort during the final stages of a terminal illness. Your loved one will be able to choose from in-home hospice or admission to a hospice house depending on the severity of the illness and the amount of care needed. At this time, you may need to provide emotional support as well as assistance performing basic activities of daily living. Here are six ways to help a loved one make the transition into an in-home or inpatient hospice program.
1. Ask a trusted friend to come with you when you meet the hospice team.
Whether your loved one chooses in-home or inpatient care, you will be working with a team of doctors, nurses, and other hospice professionals. When you meet with the hospice-care team for the first time, your heightened emotions may make it difficult to focus on what each person is saying. Bring a trusted friend to the meeting so you don't miss out on any important information. Ask your friend to take notes or write down questions you might want to ask at a later date.
2. Review all medical and long-term care insurance policies.
The coverage for hospice care varies from one insurance provider to another. Medicare, for example, pays for physician services, nursing care, social work services, and medications used to control pain. It does not cover any treatment intended to cure a terminal illness or emergency room care related to a terminal illness. Reviewing your loved one's insurance policy now will ensure you do not have to deal with unexpected bills while you are going through the grieving process.
3. Offer help with cleaning, errands, and other activities.
If your loved one chooses in-home hospice, offer to help with tasks such as cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning, picking up prescriptions, and taking out the trash. This will free up time for your loved one to look at photographs, read, watch movies, and spend time with friends instead of worrying about running errands or doing household work.
4. Plan your visits according to your loved one's wishes.
Some people in hospice enjoy having a lot of visitors, while others prefer to spend time alone. If your loved one is admitted to an inpatient program, tailor your visits according to his or her personal preferences. Don't bring several people with you if you know one-on-one visits are preferred. If your loved one chooses in-home care, create a visitation schedule that balances visiting time with time for your loved one to rest and relax.
5. Create a team of family members and friends to help you.
Don't be afraid to ask for help while your loved one is receiving hospice services. If you are providing in-home care, you will need people to relieve you while you sleep, run personal errands, or take care of other family members. Having a support network is also important if your loved one has been admitted to an inpatient program. If you have someone available to relieve you, you won't have to worry about leaving your loved one alone while you take a few hours to care for yourself.
6. Ask the hospice team to teach you how to provide basic care.
If your loved one chooses to stay at home, there is a good chance you will have to supplement the services provided by visiting nurses, physical therapists, and other care providers. Ask someone to teach you how to use your loved one's medical equipment or organize daily medications. If you know how to work an oxygen tank or give oral medication to someone who has difficulty swallowing, you'll be able to provide better care.
Following these tips will help you ensure your loved one has the best end-of-life experience possible, but don't forget to take care of yourself during this difficult time. Many hospice houses have support groups available for family members, so ask one of the team members if there are any services available in your area. Click for more information.