When your loved one is nearing the end of life, it can be tough to keep up hope. Indeed, it can also be hard for them too. After all, they are the ones who are ill and are living the last six months of their life. But keeping hope alive is important during hospice care in San Francisco and elsewhere. Studies show that hope in the remaining months of life can have an overall positive effect on both the patient and the family members, leading to improvements in quality of life and allowing them to tap into reserves of inner strength, accept their situation, and cope with the suffering. In addition, hope has also shown a correlation with lower reported levels of fatigue and pain.

Hope comes from within, but everyone around the patient can also contribute to that positive feeling of hope. That’s why it’s important for family, friends, caregivers, and hospice care team members to remain upbeat for the sake of the patient and their loved ones. But hope can also be hard to come by for those who are terminally ill but homebound. Those who can’t leave their nursing home or house due to illness are known as shut-ins. And they need hope most of all.

This February 11 is National Shut-In Day, serving as a reminder for family and friends to bring cheerful company to those who are unable to leave their homes. These visits, however brief, can make a positive difference in the person’s life. Many of us take for granted the freedom we have to get out every day for work, school, errands, visits, or even just a cup of coffee with a friend. It’s not till that freedom has been taken away from you that you realize what a tremendous loss it is. A simple visit with a shut-in can brighten their day as you share experiences, stories, and conversations.

What Hope Means for the Terminally Ill

Another study on maintaining hope in cancer patients close to death found that when patients focused on maintaining life, they could better preserve its meaning and communicate with other people about their life and their death. Interestingly, this shift in focus allowed others to take the journey with them, involving them instead of keeping a distance. They found that preparing for death meant taking responsibility for the future and realizing what possibilities were waiting for them even after death.

In hospice, the focus moves from a curative approach to one that helps the patient prepare for the end of life. Family caregivers can help their loved ones in moving from wishing for recovery to hoping for the most dignified death possible. A vital psychological resource for patients and families at the end of life, hope is a life-affirming coping mechanism that essentially provides protection against despair. As the patient moves into hospice care from palliative care, the framework shifts from one of particularized hope of a cure, to one of generalized hope for the best possible quality of remaining life and a dignified death.

Ways to Keep Hope Alive

There are many things you as a friend or family member can do to keep your loved one’s hope alive while in hospice. Keep in mind, many of these suggestions work equally well if you are an acquaintance of the patient but are close to their caregiver — remember, caring for someone in hospice can be draining and stressful and it can be tough to maintain hope. Let them know you’re there for them too.

  • Make a meal: Don’t even ask; just drop it off. Make their favorite meal, complete with all the trimmings and dessert, and tuck a note of hope inside.
  • Send a text: It takes a few seconds to do. Send a sweet message telling them to keep their head up, perhaps a joke or funny meme you know they would appreciate. Give them updates on what’s happening in your life and in the world.
  • Leave a voice mail message: It can be uplifting to hear a friend’s voice, even when they’re drowsy from medications or not feeling well. They can listen to that message later and repeat it whenever they need a pick me up.
  • Drop off little gifts: Flowers, bath soaps, lotions, magazines, books…these all make great little gifts to tell someone you’re thinking of them.
  • Don’t give up: When someone says they’re OK and don’t need anything, be insistent. It’s hard for people to ask for and accept help. But this doesn’t mean they don’t need support. Make sure they know you’re there for them, and then deliver.
  • Delegate tasks: Come up with a schedule for neighbors and friends to provide rides, bring meals, pick up kids, etc.
  • Empathize and uplift: A loss for words is common when you just don’t know what to say to someone in hospice. You don’t have to come up with anything profound. Just admit it stinks, but that you will be there to help them through till the very end. Sometimes just the thought of knowing you’re not alone is all the hope you need.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

Our hospice care program is second to none. We urge you to find out more about what we offer and how we can instill a sense of hope for patients and for their loved ones. Contact us at 888-978-1306. We also offer a variety of support groups for family members who need help coping.