Although most hospice workers have the best intentions — to help keep the patient as comfortable and as free from pain as possible — it can be a difficult transition when a team of caregiving strangers suddenly come and go, especially for hospice in a private home.
Fitting personalities. In the intimate process of hospice care, individual personalities and temperaments are essential parts of the mix. It is important to find hospice providers that the patient and caregivers can work with companionably, and who make the patient feel comforted and respected. These are reasons to carefully screen the hospice care agency and to seek out other hospice workers — or even a different provider — if there are mismatches.
Loss of privacy. Those who have been involved in hospice care at home report that the biggest adjustment is a loss of privacy. Simply getting a firm commitment of when caregivers will be arriving and how long they will stay during visits can go a long way in alleviating this concern for both the patient and family members. If possible, designate areas within the home that are the patient’s or family’s private space, off limits to others.
Personal preferences. Another common complaint is that hospice care providers aren’t attuned to the patient’s personal preferences and quirks — a sensitivity that can make the difference between delivering fitting care and simply completing tasks.
For example, even if it does not bear directly on the hospice care provider’s particular duties, it may be helpful for him or her to know about the patient’s:
- Needs related to food, sleep, and bathroom habits
- Body temperature tendencies
- Home activities, such as a favored television show or card game
- Preferred exercise and outings
- Friends and other social contacts — and how and when to include them
Psychological preparedness. In a society that emphasizes staying young and ageless, many people avoid or deny the topic of death. But for those getting and giving hospice care, it’s unavoidable. Patients or caregivers having a difficult time coming to terms with an impending death might get help from a grief counselor or support group; hospice services usually affiliate with therapists who can help or should be able to recommend local resources.
It also helps many people to learn about the physical process of death and dying — both to understand the signs when they occur and to accept them so the process is easier for all.
For an explanation of the common physical processes that occur as a body shuts down during death, see Hospicenet.org’s explanation, “Preparing for Approaching Death.”