Hospice care is an option for family members who are experiencing a life-limiting or terminal illness. This can be given at a care facility such as a nursing home, at an actual hospice, or in the comfort of a patient’s or caregiver’s home.
As a caregiver for your aging parent, it’s natural to begin thinking about long-term care. Perhaps your parent’s dementia is progressing and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for them to care for themselves.
If you expect your parent to soon be in need of end-of-life care, you may be wondering, what does hospice do exactly?
First, Consider Palliative Care
Palliative care is a form of medical care that focuses on comfort while not necessarily stopping curative treatment for patients who are chronically ill.
The goal of palliative care is to provide as much relief from mental, physical, and emotional stress as possible. Research has found that optimal palliative care for dementia patients includes psychosocial and spiritual support, family care and involvement, communication and shared decision-making, as well as physical comfort.
You can think of palliative care as a precursor to full hospice care. Palliative care involves treatment and therapy that seeks to improves the quality of life for both the person who is ill and their family.
For example, if your parent has dementia, palliative care might involve keeping your mom or dad on their medications to improve memory and other cognitive processes for as long as possible.
Protocols surrounding exercise, nutrition, and supplementation may also be a part of your parent’s palliative plan with the aim of reducing the progression of the disease or condition.
In the meantime, palliative care aims to provide comfort for family members such as yourself. A good care team will empathize with the emotional challenges you’re facing. They can also help you and your family come to terms with what’s happening through psychosocial counseling as needed.
What Does Hospice Do?
What does hospice do compared to what palliative care does? Hospice care moves to full comfort care during the progression of your parent’s declining health.
While most people think of hospice care as a place, it may be more accurate to think of it as a philosophy that encompasses end-of-life assistance for patients as well as the patient’s caregivers, family, and friends.
Private insurance, as well as public health care systems such as provincial health coverage, can provide hospice services in nursing homes, hospice facilities, or in the comfort of the patient’s own home (where medical equipment can still be provided). Here are some of the ways in which hospice can help you and your parent.
Your parent’s condition may bring on symptoms that are painful and uncomfortable. A team consisting of hospice nurses and physicians will make sure that your parent is feeling as comfortable as possible on a daily basis. They’ll formulate a treatment plan that may consist of drug therapy and other modes of treatment. They’ll strive to ensure your parent has as comfortable an experience as possible.
Your parent may also want a counselor or social worker to help during this period. A social worker can help in numerous ways when it comes to hospice care (and with palliative care, too). Here are just a few of the services a social worker can provide:
- Creating lifespan planning for your parent. Lifespan planning focuses on meaningful interactions and added comfort to your parent’s life, however long or short that may be. A social worker will help formulate activities, treatment options, and emotional support depending on the life expectancy of your parent.
- Psychotherapy (for both you and your parent). Perhaps one of the most important roles of the social worker is providing mental health support for you and your parent. They’ll provide counsel not only for your mom or dad, but also for you as the caregiver.
- Educating family members. The social worker can inform you and other family members about how to handle situations involving your parent’s hospice care. Your parent will enjoy good days, but they will also have not-so-good days. Since the social worker will not likely be at your parent’s side at all times, they’ll equip you with the necessary skills to help get through various circumstances.
- Mediating end-of-life obligations. A social worker can help mediate after-the-fact responsibilities of your parent’s hospice care. In other words, they can help with advice concerning financial planning, emotional support, and more once your parent has passed.
Help With Daily Life and Quality of Life
A priority of hospice care is to offer assistance with day-to-day living for hospice patients. As needed, your parent will receive help with their personal hygiene, eating, daily activities and hobbies, as well as with their morning and bedtime routines.
For example, if your parent has an at-home health aide, that person can help your mom or dad with activities they may still be able to do, such as reading, puzzles, and writing.
Perhaps your parent uses a walker but is still well enough to take their daily walks. A hospice care worker can join them for safety purposes, such as preventing a fall. Hospice care enables your parent to continue enjoying some level of independence while improving their quality of life.
Assistance and Advice With Food
Nutritional support is a great benefit of hospice care. As your parent’s health declines, so too will their ability to eat certain foods. They might not even be able to properly chew and digest food. A hospice team can provide advice and assistance on how best to ensure your mom or dad get optimal nutrition while keeping them feeling as comfortable as possible.
Hospice care can also include respite care. Understanding that tending to your parent can lead to exhaustion both physically and mentally, respite care focuses on your needs as a primary caregiver.
Respite care provides a period of care for your parent without the need for your immediate presence. This can be enormously beneficial for your overall sense of well-being. It can restore some of your work-life balance and give you time to address your daily tasks outside of caring for your parent.
Many people turn to spirituality for comfort during their end-of-life experience. A hospice chaplain can help fulfill the spiritual needs of your parent.
Rather than an ordained minister or specific religious leader, a hospice chaplain is a health professional who offers patients spiritual guidance.
Chaplains are usually well-trained at tending to a person’s personal spiritual beliefs rather than focusing on conversion. The goal is to provide comfort and a sense of peace to the patient (as well as family and loved ones).
Hospice Provides Considerable Care for Your Parent
Whether your parent lives in a full-time nursing facility, assisted living facility, or at home, a hospice program focuses on the comfort for your parent, symptom management, counseling, spiritual care, and more.
This form of care ultimately focuses on making your parent’s end-of-life experience as peaceful as possible. During your parent’s hospice care, it’s essential that you continue to tend to your own well-being and daily tasks.
Are you the daughter or son of a parent who may need hospice care soon? Do you have more questions about hospice? Feel free to share your story and ask us any questions. We want to hear from you.