Family members and friends often take on the role of primary caregiver for those with a terminal illness, but taking on the entire burden yourself can lead to burnout and stress. Hospice care can make the caregiving process easier on everyone by providing everything from skilled nursing care to helping with everyday tasks. Three Oaks Hospice helps you care for your loved one in a way that works for your family.
What Is a Hospice Caregiver?
A hospice caregiver includes anyone who’s helping care for a person who’s been diagnosed with a terminal illness. A family member, such as a child or spouse, often takes over the duty of caregiving for a loved one during the final stages of life, but close friends or others may also take on this important role. A hospice care team can help ease the burden on the family and educate caregivers on how to provide proper care to their loved ones.
It’s important to remember that hospice is a philosophy of care, and a specialized type of care for end of life, not a specific treatment or facility. Three Oaks Hospice provides care wherever a patient calls home. Our care involves keeping patients with a life-limiting illness as comfortable as possible. Care is personalized and coordinated with the patient’s hospice care team
What’s the Difference Between Hospice and Palliative Care?
Palliative care and hospice care offer similar benefits for the patient and primary caregiver, but they’re intended for different circumstances. Hospice care is intended specifically for patients who no longer are seeking curative treatment for their disease, while palliative care may be appropriate for anyone with an advanced illness or severe injury who’s not in the final weeks or months of life.
The overall goal of both hospice and palliative care is to make the patient as comfortable as possible while managing symptoms such as pain. Because individuals with a serious illness may not be able to carry out their regular activities of daily living anymore, hospice care workers can assist with the care and educate caregivers on activities of daily living help.
Hospice care can include helping the patient with personal care activities, such as grooming and feeding, as well as assistance with household chores, running errands, providing companionship and carrying out basic nursing care. Hospice care is focused on relieving symptoms, while palliative care may include managing symptoms alongside continuing treatments for the primary illness.
What Diagnosis Qualifies for Hospice?
Hospice patients are typically those with a terminal prognosis of six months of less and who’ve stopped all curative medical treatment for their illness. Examples of specific diseases are metastatic cancer, heart disease, lung disease, dementia/Alzheimer’s, neurodegenerative conditions and HIV/AIDS.
Sometimes family members notice signs that a patient is nearing the end of life before an official diagnosis is given. Frequent hospitalizations, progressive weight loss, increasing weakness or fatigue, declining cognitive abilities and a change in functional status can all be signs that you should talk to a doctor about your loved one’s condition and whether hospice is appropriate.
Is Hospice Only for Dying Patients?
Hospice care is specifically designed to meet the needs of patients who have a terminal prognosis and have chosen not to continue trying to treat the terminal illness. In some cases, this may occur because treatments have become ineffective. Other patients may opt to discontinue treatments for personal reasons.
You don’t have to wait until the final days of life to begin hospice care. Many hospice patients enter care soon after the terminal diagnosis, well before disease symptoms become overwhelming. Starting early can help prevent caregiver burnout since loved ones have support and assistance over a longer period of time.
Hospice care also doesn’t hasten death. The focus of hospice is to maintain the patient’s quality of life and provide a peaceful, comfortable environment during this time. Even though aggressive treatment of the terminal condition has been stopped, pain and symptom management is continued as needed.
There are other options available for patients who have a serious illness but don’t qualify for hospice care. Individuals who want to continue treatment for their illness may opt for palliative care.
Three Oaks Hospice Locations
Three Oaks Hospice has locations across the U.S., ensuring that caring, compassionate hospice and palliative care are available to patients where they live. Three Oak Hospice provides on-site care in the home or where the patient calls home, whether that’s in their residence, a family member’s, or in a medical facility.
How Does Professional Hospice Care Help Caregivers?
Working with a hospice care team helps caregivers maintain focus and prevent burnout. Caregiving can feel like a full-time job, and it’s easy for family members and friends to become overwhelmed. The hospice care team assists with some of the most important caregiving tasks and provides access to a wide range of professionals who can help with everything from spiritual concerns to easing disease symptoms.
For caregivers who need a break, respite care is an option. This type of caregiving involves a temporary takeover of all caregiving duties so the patient’s primary caregiver can rest and recharge. Respite is provided in a separate facility, such as a skilled nursing home.
Can Hospice Care Be Done in the Home?
Many terminally ill patients prefer to spend their final days and weeks of life at home in familiar surroundings, and hospice care makes this possible. In fact, hospice care is usually handled in the patient’s home or the home of a loved one. If the patient is admitted to a hospital, hospice care may be provided there temporarily and return to a home care environment once the patient is discharged. Hospice is provided in the hospital when a patient’s care needs cannot be provided in a home environment.
Hospice care is coordinated between the patient, the primary caregiver, doctors who care for the patient and the hospice care team, so visits are scheduled based on the patient’s specific needs. The patient’s needs may also change over time, so visits may increase or decrease to accommodate shifting priorities. Hospice care may be available 24 hours a day to meet you and your loved one’s needs.
What Is the Hospice Care Process and Timeline?
The hospice care process begins with a referral from a doctor or family member when curative treatments are no longer an option or when the patient has decided to stop seeking treatment. Once a referral is provided, the patient is assessed to determine eligibility and services needed. A nurse will visit the home at this point, and family caregivers can discuss any concerns with the hospice care team before services begin.
After a care plan is in place, support visits are scheduled in the home to help the primary caregiver manage the patient’s symptoms and maintain a good quality of life. In addition to regular nurse visits, counselors, hospice aides, spiritual advisers and hospice volunteers may visit over the course of hospice care. Medical equipment and supplies will be provided based on the patient’s plan of care by the hospice team as needed. A care coordinator manages the hospice team so there’s always a convenient point of contact for family members and caregivers.
As the patient nears the end of life, bereavement counselors are part of the hospice team and will reach out to the family. These professionals can help family caregivers navigate the grief process after the death of the patient for up to 13 months. Family and caregiver bereavement support may begin before the actual death as the patient’s loved ones prepare for what’s to come.
When Should Families Consider Hospice?
The patient, family members or a physician can initiate the process of discussing and deciding upon a plan of action for hospice care. Three Oaks Hospice can begin the admission process in under an hour when a hospice-appropriate referral is received. It’s best to start talking about caregiving expectations early, and determining when to call in help for hospice care is part of this process. Caregivers may want to bring up the topic with the patient’s primary care physician before end-of-life care is needed so a plan is already in place once the time comes.
Many people wait until the patient has reached the final weeks or days of life to seek out hospice care, but bringing in outside help earlier can relieve stress for family caregivers. As your loved one’s health deteriorates toward the end of life, it may become harder to coordinate care and maintain an optimal quality of life for the patient. Regardless of the hospice decision being made, our hospice care team is on call 24/7 and meets with a patient whenever the time is right.
Whether you’re in the early stages of deciding whether hospice is right for your loved one or ready to engage hospice services to help relieve your caregiving duties, Three Oaks Hospice can help. Contact us to find our nearest hospice location and get the process started today.