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Supportive Caregiving

Supportive Caregiving

One of the most difficult roles a person can take on is that of caregiver to a hospice patient. Regardless of who is doing the work, caring for a hospice patient is both physically and emotionally draining. It is important to remember that the caregiver needs care, too. Once hospice care has begun, the goal is to make the patient as comfortable as possible. Often, this care is administered in a home setting with a primary non-medical caregiver who is trained and supplemented by hospice staff.

Here are six steps you can take to be an effective caregiver:
• Work and communicate effectively with the patient.
• Support the patient’s spiritual concerns.
• Help to resolve the patient’s unfinished business.
• Work with health professionals.
• Work with family and friends.
• Take care of your own needs and feelings.

The Caregiver’s Primary Role
The responsibility for the care of the patient in the home belongs to the caregiver. This means to provide or ensure continuous care of the patient when they no longer should be left alone. If the primary caregiver is unable to fulfill this role, the patient’s family and/or caregiver can work with Glory Hospice & Palliative Care to develop a plan that will ensure optimal care for the patient.

What are the responsibilities of a caregiver?
Hospice staff can be called 24 hours a day to answer questions. They are also available to make in-home visits at any time of the day or night to address pain or other issues that might develop. The hospice team will work with the patient and family to create a care plan that is based on specific needs. The care plan includes a schedule of visits from the hospice team members, and it will be changed as needs change. Many memories are created during the hospice journey. Keep this in mind as plans are made for end-of-life care.Communicate with the hospice staff regarding the status of the patient or changes in the patient’s condition.

The primary caregiver may be a family member, friend, or hired caregiver. Several people may work together to provide care for the patient, although one person needs to be designated as the “primary” person. The primary caregiver is responsible for overseeing the care of the patient in the home, particularly when the patient is no longer able to care for himself/herself. Although the hospice team provides guidance and support, it does not provide prolonged periods of continuous care, and it is not intended to take the place of the family and/or primary caregiver. Thus when the patient’s needs are increasing, it is important that enough care be provided by non-hospice caregivers to ensure that the patient is kept comfortable and safe.

Caregiving is a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week job. As a caregiver, asking for and accepting assistance from others may be hard to do—but it will probably be needed. Keep in mind that you will be giving others the opportunity to serve and feel good about themselves for doing so. Talk with reliable family members, loved ones and friends about specific tasks and when and how they can help. Develop a schedule and contact list of those helpers you trust. Keep track of all the information necessary to stay in touch with these helpers. Caregiving requires a time commitment. The amount of time and energy needed to provide care for someone is not easy to predict. Sometimes a rotation schedule with other family members and loved ones is helpful. However, caregiving can be very demanding at times, so you may have to take time off from your job at some point.

Serving as a home hospice caregiver is covered by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which protects an individual’s job standing and benefits during unpaid leave of up to 12 weeks. Not all companies are required to offer this benefit, so discuss the FMLA with your employer. You can also talk with your employer about caregiving demands and how you can meet them through changes at work such as:

  • Flexible hours, schedule changes or working from home
  • Vacation and sick leave time you have available

Being responsible for anther’s daily care is time-consuming, stressful and often exhausting. The physical, mental and emotional demands can affect your own physical and mental health. Providing effective and compassionate care depends on how well you take care of yourself. Having your own support system and taking good care of yourself is a critical key to your success as a caregiver.

Here are things you can do to keep “caregiver overload” from happening to you:
• Take breaks: schedule regular time off from caregiving to see friends or maintain your own interests
• Relax or adjust your expectations of how frequently or how well you perform a task (such as housekeeping)
• Prioritize getting enough rest and exercise
• Learn breathing exercises or meditation techniques to manage stress
• Find a support group or person you can talk with about your feelings related to caregiving
• Focus on some of the good things that happen during the day
• Talk about topics you enjoy rather than spending all your time talking about caregiving
• Be honest about your limits and request help when you need it
• Learn to accept support and encouragement from those around you, including friends, local community agencies, and religious organizations
• Keep your sense of humor—find something to laugh about!

For more information on Supportive Caregiving, please call 706-507-5445 or email us at if you have any questions or need assistance.