Hospice care is for those who are nearing the end of life, whether it’s from an illness or natural causes, it helps all patients who need this type of support. The services are provided by a team of healthcare professionals who maximize comfort for patients who are terminally ill by reducing pain and addressing physical, emotional, spiritual, and social needs. A large part of this includes the support and presence of friends and family members.
One of the hardest things to go through is feeling helpless for your friend or family member in hospice care. You may ask yourself often “What do I say and how can I offer support?”. In this blog, we discuss the many ways you can help and support your friends or family in hospice care. It’s important to help make this person feel at home and comfortable; it is the duty of hospice to welcome all support from family and friends, as long as it is a positive experience for their patient.
Below are some ways to help support family members or friends who are in hospice care.
- Do not avoid them. The worst thing you can do is avoid them. They may feel lost and confused already, and not seeing you, an important person in their life, may worsen this feeling. It can be tough to visit someone when you know you cannot change their situation, however, you can change how they feel and can make their moments enjoyable with you.
- Physical touch. Physical touch is a powerful thing, especially for someone who may feel isolated or alone due to their illness. Holding their hand, hugging them, or even just touching their shoulder, can help them feel connected, cared for, and special. Depending on your relationship with the patient, you can also offer a massage, which can help them relax and maybe alleviate some of their pain or achy joints from limited activity.
- Bring a positive attitude; it’s contagious! Bring some joy to this person; make them some yummy snacks, offer to watch a movie with them, or play their favorite board or card game. Do some of their favorite activities with them and keep the environment lively with some music, decorations, and more.
- Listen and be there. Sometimes you don’t have to say much to support someone. Being a good listener and just being there for someone to vent can help them feel as though they are not alone and they are not forgotten. Listen to your friend or family member talk about their feelings, concerns, or whatever else they feel like talking about to help them feel heard and validated in what they are going through. Listening can also help them feel like nothing has changed, you are still two friends or family members just enjoying some time together. Even if they are not having a good day and you just sit with them, they may appreciate just the company.
- Bring a pet. Your pet brings you so much joy each day, share that with your friend or family, and bring a well-behaved pet to join you as long as it is allowed wherever they are staying. Therapy pets have been known to decrease pain and blood pressure while increasing happy feelings. Studies have also shown that petting a dog, cat, or other furry friend initiates an instant relaxation response, which can help ease anxiety and pain. Just make sure they are not allergic first.
- Share emotions. Weep with your loved ones when they weep; laugh when they laugh. Don’t be afraid to experience these emotions together. It can be hard for both of you to hold back anything, so it’s important to let it out at the right times.
- Take them out. Take your loved one out for a pleasure trip or ride, just make sure you consider their limitations. Sometimes a walk in the park they used to visit, or a ride through their favorite town can help bring a breath of fresh air into their life.
- Cook them a meal. Do you know their favorite home-cooked meal? Make it! Sometimes they don’t really know what they want to eat, so cooking them one of their favorite meals can help with their appetite and happiness at meal time. Be sure to bring it in disposable containers so they don’t have to worry about returning dishes.
- Celebrate! Holidays and birthdays were always something they celebrated at home, so keep it going! Continue these traditions no matter where they are. Decorate their room, invite a few guests, as many as allowed, and celebrate the occasion, have fun! This type of environment will help make them feel included and like they are important to everyone.
- Do they want to talk about it? Ask them if they’d like to talk about their illness. A lot of the time, they won’t want to, but sometimes it’s good for them to talk about it, especially if something specific is bothering them that day, making them want to discuss their situation. It can be very hard to rely on other people to do daily activities, especially if they are usually very independent people. This can create frustration, anger, sadness, and more; talking about these feelings can help them feel validated and like they are not alone.
Wow, so many ways to help! Above is just a small list of the many ways you can help your loved one who’s going through this difficult situation. One of the best ways to help your loved one is to be their friend, be their ear, be their joy. All of these things can help this person feel like they are still living a good life; the goal of happiness and comfortability is of the utmost priority, so having family members and friends involved is key.