Until my Mom was placed in “in-home” hospice after a long illness with Alzheimer’s, I did not appreciate what end of life with hospice meant.  I was lucky to be there while my Mom had Hospice care, but it was indeed eye-opening, especially when you are not prepared emotionally to realize your loved one is in the final stages of death.

Hospice can start as early as when someone has six months or less to live or at any time when needed with a focus on prolonging the best quality of life possible with attention on comfort.

When your loved one’s journey of life is near the end after a terminal or situation where hospice is required, I do not think anyone can prepare you for what to expect.

Hospice is typical when someone is near death with no option of recovery (typically with a terminal illness).  The objective is to provide pain and system management, as well as care for physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects for the person.

Because hospice manages physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, a team approach of professionals is used.  The typical team includes :

  • Primary Care Physician (PCP) – make sure they are involved not only for support, but any changes in medication hospice recommend.
  • Hospice Medical Director – will ensure the right level of support and pain medication is prescribed.
  • Hospice Nurse and Home Health Aide – they are your lifeline; they will take vitals, provide pain medication, and maintain your loved one’s hygiene.
  • Hospice Social Worker – helps the loved one and family work through emotions.
  • Hospice Pastoral Care Coordinator – most people use their pastor, but if they do not have one will use the hospice pastor.
  • Bereavement Care Coordinator – before, during, and after a grief coach will help you work through your emotions.

Some or all may be required, but it is critical to understand what to expect. For me, we found that we relied on the Hospice Nurse and Home Health Aide who came daily to take vitals, provide pain medication, take care of the bathing, and inform us of the status of my Mom.  It was hard to hear prognosis, but it was done in a factual and caring manner.

You can expect the Hospice Team to recognize that terminal illness can be an anxious and frightening time for the dying person and family. Fear of the unknown, the Hospice Team listens to and provides comfort to the dying person and family.  The patience they show as a family and loved ones grasp what to expect during a dying process and what comfort measures are available.  We are part of the team to help our loved ones in their journey end.

Remember, the Hospice Team is there not only to care for your loved one but to help you in understanding what is going on, ask questions, and remember they are there for you as well.

In the coming weeks, I will post on what each Hospice Team member does as well as what end of life looks like and what support you should consider to help you through the loss of a loved one and moving from anticipatory grief to the five stages of grief.