The Forgotten, the Unsung…the Caregivers
When people think of hospice care, they often focus on the patient, often forgetting the caregiver in the process. Caring for a family member or friend as they near the end of their life is both a blessing and an honor, but it is also a responsibility.
When we forget about the caregivers, we are forgetting about the foundation of long-term care for patients…
Almost a quarter of patients are cared for by family members – sons, daughters, husbands, and wives – who are doing this on their own with no outside help until the situation deteriorates. Caregivers are more likely to skip meals or not eat enough, not sleep well, fall ill more readily due to a lack of immune system function, and suffer from depression. These are all the beginnings of caregiver burnout. Other signs include:
- Feeling unfocused, scattered, or frantic.
- Wanting to run from or abandon all responsibility
- Significant weight loss
- Sleeping less than 2-3 hours a night
- Increased use of drugs and/or alcohol
- Inability to concentrate or forgetting important details/dates
- Lack of self-care
These signs are serious and are a cry for help from the caregiver. They feel alone and untethered. One of their biggest oversights is they wait too long before seeking help from hospice and palliative care.
Asking for help does not mean you are giving up…
When hospice comes into a caregiver’s life, it is a startling readjustment. The caregiver is surrounded by a team of people that not only take care of their loved one, but them as well. As we keep mentioning, hospice is a holistic service that takes care of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. Why? Because they know that dying can cause many issues to arise. Counselors are on staff to listen to both the patient and the caregiver. For caregivers, having this network of support can cause feelings of insecurity and guilt to arise. These feelings are normal and talking to the counselor can help them work through it. There are volunteers that can help sit with your loved one while you run errands or even just get a cup of coffee and relax.
Remember, you are not alone…
What can a caregiver expect when hospice care comes in to help? Well, first, a respite from caregiver duties. Staff and volunteers will provide care for their loved one while the caregiver is able to take time for themselves. There are grief counselors and/or clergy on staff to listen to the caregiver and help them start the grieving process. They also teach caregivers relaxation techniques and other methods to help relieve stress. This is vital to the caregiver’s health and mental state. It leaves them rejuvenated and able to continue caring for their loved one as they wish.
Asking for help can be difficult, but it is a decision that will you provide the best care and support for your loved one in their last days. Remember, that hospice is more than just nursing care, it is a support network. Taking advantage of their services is not an admission of defeat, but a decision that will bring a better quality of life for you and your ones.