It’s no secret that the transition from the hospital to hospice care is a tough transition for anyone. The family is starting to realize that the comfort of their loved one is more important than an aggressive treatment in a hospital setting. This is often because certain treatments increase the amount of discomfort and negative symptoms when it’s more important for a terminal patient to seek the alleviation of those symptoms than an actual cure. Being the hospice patient’s primary caregiver is a responsibility that many people aren’t ready for.
Things Every Hospice Patient’s Primary Caregiver Should Know
Hospice is often a new environment for everyone involved. Therefore, there are a few important facts that every hospice patient’s primary caregiver should keep in mind.
1. You May be Providing a Significant Amount of Personal Care.
Many people don’t realize that hospice care can take place either at an outside location or in the home. Advances in nursing and caregiver technology have made this a reality. Unless a professional care team is involved, the primary caregiver will be providing assistance with a wide variety of personal tasks. These include assistance with:
- Showering and bathing
- Using the bathroom
- Changing outfits on a daily basis
The primary caregiver needs to make sure that they are physically able and emotionally comfortable performing these tasks. These can become more difficult and challenging as the physical health of the patient begins to wane. It can be helpful to have friends and family around to help with these tasks at certain times during the day.
2. You May Have to Help with Medical Tasks.
Unless there is a hospice nurse that provides help regularly, the primary caregiver will need to learn how to perform a few medical tasks. Examples include:
- Changing bandages
- Taking the patient’s temperature
- Measuring the patient’s blood pressure
- Taking the patient’s heart rate as well
While these tasks can appear difficult at first, it can be helpful to ask the physician for help before leaving the hospital or calling on a friend in the healthcare field. After a few tries performing these tasks, the hospice patient’s primary caregiver will feel comfortable performing these measurements.
3. You Will Need to Develop a Medication Schedule
Hospice care does not always mean that no treatment will be given. Instead, hospice care means that the focus will be on the comfort and pain relief. Therefore, most of the care plan will be dedicated to the alleviation of symptoms rather than aggressively treating the cause.
Once the medications have been decided, the correct dosages will need to be calculated and a schedule will be developed based on these dosages. These medications should ensure that the patient is as comfortable as possible to improve their quality of life as they spend time with family and friends.
4. You Will Need to Provide Emotional and Spiritual Support
The focus on hospice care is not on trying to fix an incurable medical condition. Instead, the focus is on making the patient as comfortable as possible. While this certainly involves medical care that provides symptomatic relief, it also includes emotional support. The primary caregiver will be responsible for deciding who comes to visit the patient and when. You may need to call on a spiritual counselor of the patient’s choice to ease the emotional and spiritual stress of the patient.
The transition to hospice care is always an emotional time for everyone involved. As the primary caregiver, understanding the roles that the caregiver will have to play is the first step towards making the patient as comfortable as possible. Primary caregiver does not mean the only caregiver. Remember to ask for help when it’s needed.