Caregiver tips for coping with advancing illnesses

Caregiver tips for coping with advancing illnesses

It can be difficult for family caregivers who are helping others cope with advancing illness and changing needs. Caregiver coping skills have to go both ways, helping others cope, and also coping with their own emotions while seeing the stage of their caregiving role evolve.

It’s important to have support and develop caregiver coping technique for yourself too.

It’s important to have support and develop caregiver coping technique for yourself too.

What is advancing illness?

Advancing illness, broadly defined, is when a person has a serious illness (like cancer or dementia) that is no longer responding to treatment as it once was. The person has worsening symptoms and a poorer quality of life.

How can caregivers help others cope with an advancing illness?

  • Ask questions and listen to the person's wishes. Ask them if they have specific goals, or if there is something that they would like to do.
  • Create a comfortable home or home-like setting.
  • As a caregiver, it's okay to feel helpless, or not as strong as others think you are. You can't control your loved one's health, but you can be there to support them and help them cope.
  • Tell the person that you love them and you are there for them.
  • Ask your health care team to openly and honestly explain all available options. Developing good caregiver coping techniques will help you make informed decisions.
  • Listen to and respect the person's wishes about further treatment and procedures. Having a care plan eases fears of the unknown. A care plan includes choosing a substitute decision maker, to make the person's voice heard if he or she cannot speak for themselves.
  • Be attentive. Provide care that is compassionate, patient, and responsive to their changing emotional and psychological needs. A hug, sharing memories, and holding hands can provide great comfort.
  • Accept the natural process of physical decline with an advancing illness. Don't neglect or be afraid of talking about and planning for the next stages of care.
  • Have your own caregiver coping strategies. Try talking about your feelings and your changing caregiver role with a trusted family member, friend, or professional.

How can a palliative care team help manage advancing illness?

  • Palliative care is a type of care provided to clients and families who are dealing with an advancing illness that is life limiting or life threatening. The goal is to reduce suffering and improve quality of life. Hospice palliative care is often called palliative care, hospice care, or end of life care.
  • A hospice palliative care team not only supports the physical and emotional concerns of patients and their families but also their spiritual concerns.
  • Palliative care services address multiple issues including pain and symptom management, nutrition support, advance care planning and personal care (e.g., bathing). It is also a source of support and counseling for family caregivers. Also see our Elizz article on palliative care options.
  • As a family caregiver, it can be quite difficult if you are providing hospice palliative care on your own, so it is important to seek help. Speak to your doctor or local health authority for a professional referral, or contact volunteer services in the community who can assist you.
  • The goals of end-of-life care are comfort and dignity, life closure, and bereavement support.

Every case of advancing illness is different. A decision to transition to end-of-life care is very personal and varies widely. The decision also depends on the nature of the illness.

For example, dealing with end stage Alzheimer Disease is a different experience than dealing with cancer treatments or heart disease. A disease may take a long time to reach the end stages, and therefore it can often be difficult to see the slow progression and make informed decisions.

An Elizz health care professional can help you care for someone with an advancing illness.

Throughout the month of February, Elizz is offering family caregivers a combination of In-Home Care and Virtual Services at a special rate. Visit our website or call 1-855-ASK-ELIZ (275-3549) to learn how you can save over $130 on Elizz services.

At Elizz, we provide caregiver support for you and home care services for those who depend on you. Elizz is a Canadian company powered by Saint Elizabeth, a national not-for-profit health care organization that has been caring for Canadians since 1908.

 

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