End of Life Caregiving
Caregiving often comes with new responsibilities and unfamiliar tasks, yet most caregivers never receive training. The following information may help you with a current situation or prepare you for what may happen.
Has the person you are caring for told you their wishes for end-of-life care? In the event that you are asked to make or help make decisions it is important for you to talk about issues, including thoughts about potential life-prolonging treatments. Advance directives are tools that enable people to write down their preferences on a legal form and appoint someone to speak for them if they are no longer able. A living will, health care power of attorney, financial power of attorney, and plan for after care (funeral arrangements) can help ensure peace of mind for the ill person as well as you as the caregiver.
Hospice is end-of-life care that involves a team-oriented approach to quality medical care, pain and symptom management, and emotional and spiritual support tailored to your loved ones needs. Hospice is available to anyone who has a life expectancy of six months or less. Hospice provides medical equipment and medications related to terminal illness. Support is given to you as the caregiver, including counselors to talk to, nurses and aides to teach you how to provide hands-on care, volunteers to help lighten your load and non-denominational chaplains to aide with any spiritual distress.
In addition to hospice, there may be other community resources that can help you and your loved one. Your Area Agency on Aging, Department of Human Services, and other organizations may offer services to ease your burden. These may include meals on wheels, caregiver training classes, transportation, friendly visitors and respite care so that you can have a break.
Preparing the Home
It is important to prepare the place where the ill person lives to ensure that they are safe and comfortable. Is there room for any special equipment that may be needed such as a walker, or commode? Are there special needs for the bathroom or bedroom needed to make living easier for the person?
Caregiving for someone at the end of life can be a challenging, but rewarding experience. Learning about the complex needs of the person you are caring for and the resources that can help will be important steps for you to take to prepare you for being a caregiver. Caregiving at the end of life may bring about many different feelings-it will important for you to care for yourself and ask for help when you need it.