Caregiver’s Corner – How Hospice Helps Caregivers

May 16, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Today is Friday, the day that I dedicate to the amazing people who fall are caregivers.

You are true warriors. You battle the elements to get your loved ones to doctor’s appointments, You battle your grief as you go about providing care while you are tired, frustrated and wondering how you’ll be able to make it. You battle Alzheimer’s disease daily. Sometimes you get a thank you and sometimes you don’t. But you always keep on going.

After a few days of talking about hospice, I’ll wrap up the week by telling you how hospice can help you as a caregiver. You may be tempted to skip over this because your loved one is not anywhere near the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease. However, I encourage you to read on because the more informed you are, the easier it will be to make a decision when the time comes.

Just by way of review – Hospice is a special concept of care designed to provide comfort and support to patients and their families when a life-limiting illness no longer responds to cure-oriented treatments. Most people are not aware that hospice care is a benefit of Medicare Part A. Some hospice workers refer to it as “Medicare’s best kept secret.” Please see my post entitled Medicare Made Simple for more information about Medicare.

Here’s how hospice can help you as a caregiver:

Hospice can help you to be the best caregiver possible during a very difficult time. According to, Hospice can teach you to:

  1. Communicate effectively with your loved one
  2. Support your loved one’s spiritual concerns
  3. Help resolve unfinished business
  4. Work with health professionals
  5. Work and communicate with family and friends
  6. Take care of your own needs

In addition:

  • Hospice can provide you with a myriad of readings and affirmations from various faith traditions to share with your loved one
  • Hospice can teach you and help you to say goodbye
  • Hospice can help you to understand the process of death. They can help you to understand what is happening physically to your loved one. It’s difficult to watch our loved ones die, but it is important to know in advance what is happening.
  • Hospice can also help you with a companion or volunteer for your loved one if you have to be away from home to run errands, etc. for a period of time or need a break and don’t want you leave your loved one alone.

So friend, I encourage you to seriously consider allowing the wonderful employees and volunteers of hospice to help you as you care for your loved one. Remember that you are no good to your loved one if you are trying to play martyr or superman (or woman). Your loved one needs you informed, rested and ready.

In the end, in addition to providing care for your loved one, the hospice team can help YOU to be the best caregiver you can be.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Hospice Care

May 14, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

This week, I am discussing hospice care. I’ve talked about what it is and isn’t and what it does and does not do. In addition, yesterday, I discussed some of the myths and misconceptions of hospice care. Today, I’ll discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of utilizing hospice care.

First the advantages:

Advantage One
I think one of the biggest advantages of utilizing hospice is that it means that the patient and family are coming to grips with the reality that they are dealing with a “terminal illness.” As stated in another post, it doesn’t mean that life will end tomorrow or the next day, but choosing to enter hospice means that there is a realization that you are no longer actively attempting to cure the disease. Instead you are attempting to provide quality unconditional comfort and support to the patient and his or her family. Which leads me to the second advantage.

Advantage Two
Hospice is one of the only insurance benefits that specifically addresses the needs of the patient AND the patient’s family.

Advantage Three
Hospice care addresses the needs of the whole person. It responds to the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs of the individual. Hospice personnel have been known to help mend broken relationships and listen to a myriad of secrets and “confessions.”

Advantage Four
Hospice utilizes the team approach to care. Every hospice patient and family has a doctor, nurse, social worker, chaplain and possibly a volunteer as well. So, there is a constant evaluation of the patient and his or her needs at any given time.

Advantage Five

Hospice employees and volunteers are specialists. They understand the issues related to providing the best quality of life possible. They may understand various stages such as refusing food, withdrawing, etc. a little more than other medical professionals.

Advantage six
In many cases, the patient can remain at home surrounded by family and friends.

Advantage Seven
ospice is a much less alternative to staying in a hospital or long term care facility.

And now for the disadvantages:

Disadvantage One
The first disadvantage goes along with the first advantage. The realization of the inevitable. Sometimes patients are just not ready to accept the fact that they are “eligible” for hospice care. In some cases, admittance into hospice prior to the patient being “ready” may lead to down spirits, depression and a defeated attitude.

Disadvantage Two
Because of the complete nature of hospice care, the home is “invaded” as it were by caring specialists. If a patient or a family is extremely private, it can take some getting used to to have consistent visits from the hospice team.

Disadvantage Three
“Outsiders” who are not educated regarding hospice may believe that the end is closer than it really is because of the myths and misconceptions surrounding hospice.

Disadvantage Four
Depending on the configuration of your home, it may be difficult/cumbersome to have a set up that is comfortable. So, you’ll have to consider if you have space (if needed) for a hospital bed and other equipment.

In my humble opinion, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. More than anything, it’s a mindset. Again, it is a personal decision and one that will have impact long after your loved one is gone. I chose hospice for my mom. However, because I had not PLANNED or thought about it in advance, it was very difficult because I was not informed and I was afraid of the myths and misconceptions. I even had well-meaning medical personnel attempting to provide “comfort” that, as we discussed yesterday could have actually made my mother more uncomfortable.

That’s why, it is so important to read, research and even talk with patients who are utilizing hospice care and their families prior to making a decision. Maybe, the question isn’t whether or not you go with hospice (although, I think its a good choice), but whether or not you have carefully considered it as an option.

So, friend, as you battle Alzheimer’s disease, consider an option that will provide support and comfort for yourself and your loved one.

(Thanks again to the crew at Trinity Hospice – Pittsburgh. Not only did they provide awesome care for my mom, they continue to support me!)

Tomorrow – A Recipe For Life!

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What is Hospice Care?

May 12, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

As your loved one comes to the end stages of Alzheimer’s disease, you will have to make some very difficult decisions. Over the next few days, I’m going to talk about hospice care, what it is and isn’t. The myths and misconceptions, the advantages/disadvantages of getting into hospice and explain some of the services provided under the hospice benefit. First, a definition from Hospice Foundation of America.

Hospice is a special concept of care designed to provide comfort and support to patients and their families when a life-limiting illness no longer responds to cure-oriented treatments.Most people are not aware that hospice care is a benefit of Medicare Part A. Some hospice workers refer to it as “Medicare’s best kept secret.” Please see my post entitled Medicare Made Simple for more information about Medicare. According to the Department of Health and Human Services here are some important facts about hospice care:

Hospice provides comfort and support services to people who are terminally ill. It helps them live out the time they have remaining to the fullest extent possible.

Hospice care is provided by a specially trained team that cares for the “whole person,” including his or her physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs.

Hospice provides support to family members caring for a terminally ill person.

Hospice is generally given in the home.

Hospice services may include drugs, physical care, counseling, equipment, and supplies for the terminal and related condition(s).

Hospice isn’t only for people with cancer.

Hospice doesn’t shorten or prolong life.

Hospice focuses on comfort, not on curing an illness. Choosing to place your loved one in hospice care is a very personal and important decision. Although you can make the decision ahead of time, in order to receive official hospice care, a doctor will have to certify that the patient “probably” has six months or fewer to live. I personally know of people who were in hospice care for 18 months or longer. It’s not necessarily a case of, “there’s nothing else we can do.”

Rather, hospice IS the something else, the something more that can be done. It is also important to note that you can get OUT of hospice at any time if you are not happy with the service or if health improves.Yes, at its core, hospice is about the end. But its about facing the end of life surrounded with family and with honor and dignity.There are many myths and misconceptions about hospice that I’ll talk about in detail on tomorrow.

Call for Photos! We are looking for pics of caregivers and the people they care for. We’ll post one each week, so get your picture in soon!

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.