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Caregiving


What can you do for your loved one NOW? 
 
  • Talk about and listen to your loved one's wishes, providing comfort in hearing their wants, needs, and their life story. Listen to their wishes about how they want to die.
 
  • Assist with eating and drinking:
    • Water or favorite non-alcoholic beverages should be available and provided. If your loved one is unable to drink/swallow, provide sponges soaked in water or juice to moisten a dry mouth.
    • Although appetite is often diminished, comfort or favorite foods can be provided to encourage eating, but should always be given in small portions. 
    • Food and water should never be force fed.
 
  • Communicate your loved one's wishes to physicians and other health care professionals.


Challenges of caregiving
 
You may consider caring for a loved one to be your duty, calling, or even a privilege. Though gratifying, make no mistake: caregiving can be difficult work, both emotionally and physically. Many caregivers struggle with guilt, anger, anxiety and sadness. As caregiving responsibilities increase, they may find less time to take care of themselves, thus neglect their own health. They may not be eating or sleeping well, and over time, experience exhaustion and burnout or their own debilitating illness.

The strain of constant physical, emotional and financial challenges shared by many caregivers can lead to job loss and social isolation, making for a lonely existence. Fortunately, hospice considers both the person who is ill and their caregiver to be “the patient” and addresses many of these issues.

​Read more about coping with the challenges here.

How hospice helps
 
When someone is dying, family members and other loved ones are suddenly thrust into the role of caregiver, often with little preparation or knowledge of what to expect.  Hospice team members support the caregiver by providing information and answering questions. Caregivers also are given practical tips, advice and strategies to help them manage the considerable burden of caregiving.  Many caregivers report much of their worry was relieved simply by knowing they were never alone, that they could call hospice at any time with a question, concern, or for help.
 
Practice self-care
 
It is important to find ways to care for yourself as well as for your loved one. Eating properly, getting enough rest, and exercising regularly contribute to a sense of well-being and control, and help your overall heath.

Reducing your stress level is also important. Massages, walks, warm baths, or talking with friends are just some examples of ways you can nurture yourself and reduce tension you may feel.  If family, friends or neighbors offer to cook, clean or shop, consider accepting the offer – it will likely be as beneficial to them as it is helpful to you.

Take care of your mental health as well. You may find it helpful to read books and websites on caregiving, join a support group, or seek counseling. These activities provide opportunities to express your feelings, worries, and thoughts. They’re also a chance to discuss and learn how others deal with challenges you are facing. Equally important, counseling, whether in a group or individual setting, provides the comfort of knowing that you need not face this alone. And that sustains hope.
 
Take a break
 
Caregiving often involves irregular hours and little time “off.”  It isn’t so much a matter of “if” but when you need a break, take it.  You can try early on to find others willing to step into the caregiver role periodically so you can have some “down” time.  The hospice should be able to provide an adult volunteer who can visit for an hour or two so you can take care of other things or just relax.