Caring for Loved Ones

Caring for a loved one in hospice can be an emotionally and physically demanding experience. It also is an important one. Bon Secours Hospice has more than 30 years experience helping and advising caregivers.

We understand the challenges you face and offer the following suggestions to assist you as you fill an important role in your loved ones’ life:

  • Organize
    Making notes and lists can relieve a lot of stress. Doing so will help you handle many tasks, including giving medications properly, following doctors’ instructions and having contact information handy for physicians, nurses and other health care professionals.
  • Include the Patient
    Too often, patients are left out of discussions about end-of-life care. This can create stress and a sense of loss of control while making care discussions difficult and highly emotional. Engaging the patient, however, allows for compassionate candor and open communications. The result can improve the patient’s quality of life and relationship of family and patient during this period.
  • Encourage the Patient to Get Important Legal and Medical Documents Up-to-Date
    Doing so can gives the patient another way to exert control in an important area by ensuring their wishes are observed. Several documents are particularly important: a will, living will and a durable power of attorney. A will addresses how a person’s property is handled after death. A living will specifies what care a patient does or does not want to sustain his/her life. A durable power of attorney names the person who will make healthcare decisions for the patient if he/she cannot.
  • Seek Help
    Caregiving is demanding, but you don’t have to do it alone. Enlist friends and family. Remember that the Bon Secours hospice team can advise you on handling day-to-day matters as well as medical ones. Our volunteers often can lend a helping hand and a sympathetic ear. Nursing assistants can assist with bathing and grooming patients, and changing bed linens. Plus, consider using respite care. This can provide you with a break that will allow you to rest and to return to your caregiver role with renewed energy.
  • Ask Questions
    In your role as a caregiver, you’ll deal with many complex matters that will be new to you. Be sure to ask for a full explanation on any topic you do not understand whether it concerns medicine, personal finances, insurance, legal matters, or any other issue. The more you know – the more control you can exercise over your situation. You also will be able to make better decisions. Asking questions is not a sign of weakness or ignorance. In fact, it shows wisdom, courage and a commitment to doing the best job possible.
  • Care for Yourself
    Too often, caregivers become so focused on the patient’s needs that they neglect their own. This can lead to exhaustion, illness and poor thinking. It is vital that you set aside time for meals, exercise and recreation. Get plenty of rest so you can stay healthy. You cannot care for others if you don’t also care of yourself.

Caregivers also will find excellent advice on managing many aspects of end-of-life care at these Internet sites:

  • Click here for good practical guidance from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
  • Click here for excellent information about "Caring for the Caregiver" from the National Cancer Institute, a part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.