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Understanding the Available Services in End of Life Care

The prospect of end-of-life care can be emotionally overwhelming, stressful, and confusing. What services are available to you or your loved one? How do you find those services? Do you even qualify? We are here to answer those questions and more if you are facing end-of-life care in Alameda County and elsewhere. From palliative care and transitioning to hospice care to full hospice care teams and bereavement support, these are just a few services that are typically offered as part of end-of-life care.

First off, hospice care is for those who are nearing the end of life. There are many services provided by an entire team of healthcare professionals whose sole goal is to increase comfort for the person who is terminally ill, says the Mayo Clinic. They achieve this with efforts to reduce pain and address physical, social, psychological, and even spiritual needs. And for the families, hospice care also offers counseling, respite care, and support. Once a person is in hospice, the focus is no longer on curing the underlying disease, but rather to allow the person to be as comfortable as possible and have as high a quality of life as possible in their remaining days, weeks, or months.

Access to Hospice Care Team

First and foremost, upon entry into the hospice program, the ill person gets access to a team of health care providers. This team is usually made up of:

  • Doctors: A primary care doctor, hospice doctor or medical director will oversee the care of the patient.
  • Nurses: Nurses will provide medical care and coordinate the efforts of the hospice care team.
  • Home health aides: They provide extra support for routine care, like eating, dressing, and bathing.
  • Spiritual counselors: Lay ministers, chaplains, priests and other spiritual counselors offer spiritual care and guidance for the patient as well as the family.
  • Social workers: They provide counseling and support, as well as referrals to additional community support systems.
  • Pharmacists: They oversee medication distribution and make suggestions about which medications are the most effective in relieving symptoms.
  • Volunteers: Trained volunteers can sit with the patient and family, provide respite care for caregivers and even provide transportation for the patient to and from appointments.
  • Other professionals: Sometimes, speech, physical and occupational therapists can offer their services if needed.
  • Bereavement counselors: Trained counselors and therapists offer support and guidance for the family once the patient has passed on. This also usually involves access to support groups as well.

Patient and Caregiver Needs in Late-Stage Care

This is a time of great uncertainty for the family and the patient. Simple acts of daily care are often offset by complex end-of-life decisions along with painful feelings of loss and grief, points out Help Guide. As your loved one enters end-of-life care, also known as late-stage care, their needs are likely changing, which will affect the demands placed on you as the caregiver. These services include:

  • Practical care and assistance: In the event your loved one can no longer sit, walk, eat, or talk, routine activities such as bathing, feeding, and dressing will require much more support from outside sources as well as increased physical strength on your part. Personal care assistants, your loved one’s hospice team, or doctor-ordered nursing services can help you with these tasks.
  • Comfort and dignity: Even after your loved one’s cognitive and memory functions have been largely compromised, they can still feel basic human emotions such as fear, peace, loneliness, love, sadness, or insecurity. Take this time to continue to make meaningful connections with your loved one. Spiritual counselors and social workers can help guide you.
  • Respite Care: This is a valuable type of care that gives you and the rest of your family a break from the overwhelming demands of end-of-life caregiving. Perhaps a hospice volunteer could sit with your loved one for a couple of hours while you go home and enjoy a meal with your own family, or grab a cup of coffee with a friend. Respite care could be more far-reaching if a longer break is needed, perhaps involving a brief stay at an inpatient hospice facility.
  • Grief support: The grieving process can start well before the actual death of your loved one. Anticipating the death can cause a myriad of emotions, such as relief, sadness and a feeling of being numb. Bereavement specialists and spiritual advisors can help you prepare for the impending loss, as well as help you cope after your loved one has passed. Support groups can also be helpful, as there are many groups specific to your needs, such as spouses who recently lost their partners, or adult children grieving the loss of their parents.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

Here at Pathways, we offer many services as part of our end-of-life care program, from palliative care and transitioning to hospice care to full hospice care teams and bereavement support. To inquire further about any of these services, please contact us at 888-978-1306.