Family members of a terminally ill patient may be entitled to services through hospice care, just as the patient is entitled to services. The goal of hospice care is to make the patient as comfortable as possible so they can enjoy a good quality of life for the time they have remaining. Part of that protocol is ensuring that the loved ones of that patient are well cared for, too. The goal is to provide the medical care needed to make patients comfortable during the end of their illness, but the other part of hospice care is creating an environment where patients can thrive during the end stages of their illness.
According to American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, family members may be entitled to bereavement counseling. Often times, when a patient is terminally ill, or at the end stages of an illness, family members find they haven’t had the time needed to assess the situation and grief the loss of their loved on. They have been too wrapped up in medical appointments and dealing with the “right now,” to be able to properly think the entire process through. This is where bereavement counseling comes in. Bereavement counseling can begin while the patient is still in hospice care and continues through the first year after the end of the patient’s life.
Hospice care also provides social workers that can take on a family’s case. The goal of a social worker is to act as a community advocate so family members do not have to. This frees up more time for family members, and allows them to interact socially with the patient and enjoy their company during their hospice stay.
Family members who are working as round-the-clock caregivers for a patient at the end of a serious illness can also use respite care. Respite care simply ensures the patient is in a safe, monitored environment while family members attend to other needs. This can bring a great deal of peace of mind to family members who have been caring for a sick loved one around the clock. It also gives them the necessary breather to process what is going on and deal with their own well-being and feelings.
According to the American Hospice Foundation, family members are involved as much as they would like in the emotional and social well being of the patient. Some family members, however, may find it difficult to differentiate between providing emotional support and providing medical support. In the case of many advanced illnesses, family members have spent months, if not years, caring for a patient and dealing with the medical fallout of the situation, and relinquishing that control can be a truly difficult task, especially for those who have not actively grieved the loss that suddenly seems imminent for hospice care patients.