As much as we try to fight it, we’re all getting older. By the year 2030 alone, it’s estimated at least 20% of the U.S. population will be over the age of 65. Unfortunately, the continued rise of an aging population also means there’s a continued need for hospice serves because many of those who are aging will end up in hospice care. In 2015, it was estimated that more than a million beneficiaries enrolled in hospice care for 24 hours or more.
Receiving a hospice diagnosis, especially if it’s a loved one can be devastating for family and friends. No one wants to see anything terrible happen to people they love and a hospice diagnosis can be a hard thing for people to accept. But as hard as a hospice diagnosis may be, friends and family should take comfort in the fact that social workers and nurses who work with hospice patients are there to help.
Having a friend or a loved one in hospice care is difficult and hospice workers due all that they can to make a loved one’s final days as comfortable as possible. Hospice workers can help patients live out their final days at home, order necessary medical supplies they may need, offer holistic hospice care, lend a listening ear and help answer questions that friends and family have.
A terminal diagnosis or a hospice diagnosis can be devastating and it’s understandable for a patient and his or her friends and family to experience a wide range of emotions. As devastating as it may be to here, your loved one or friend is going to need you the most when they are put in hospice care. With that in mind, here are some helpful tips to support a loved one dealing with a terminal illness:
- Ask what they want: Every hospice patient tends to have a different reaction to receiving a terminal diagnosis. As a result, a patient usually has ideas about how they wish to spend their final days. It’s important to be sensitive to their last wishes and to not push your ideas or wishes on them. The best thing to do is ask what they want and how you can help make it happen.
- Respect their dignity: A terminal illness can leave a loved one or friend feeling weak and in constant pain or in need of medical care. But that doesn’t mean they’ve lost their dignity. That means you should include them in conversions and generally act like they’re still alive because they are. You also respect their privacy if they’re receiving private medical care and try to pitch in where you can, especially with things like grooming.
- Share memories with them: In your loved one’s final days, one of the best things you can do is to share memories with them. You can spend time going through old photo albums, remembering good times from the past, you can take them for a drive to some of their favorite spots and you can even share family stories, recipes and other things they might want to pass down. You might also want to create a journal, a photo album or some other tangible thing that preserves their story. Above all, when you’re sharing memories, make sure to give them your full attention because time is a precious commodity.
- Be there for them: Perhaps the best thing you can do for a loved one or friend dealing with a terminal illness is to simply be there for them. If you’re their primary caregiver, that might mean helping them get dressed or sharing meals with them. If you’re a loved one or a friend, that might be stopping by for a visit and watching their favorite shows or swapping stories. The worst thing you can do is avoid a loved one. You want to take the time to smile, laugh and cry with them as much as you can.
Having a friend or loved one in hospice care is never easy, but you can do a lot for them by being there and spending time with them. It’s also important to remember that hospice workers are there to help.