Skip to Main Content
Google Plus Logo
Home Nursing Services
At Home Therapies
Home Care FAQ
Bereavement & Grief
Hospice & Alzheimers
Hospice Pet Therapy
Special Care Programs
Your Care Team
Specialized Home Care
Patient-Centered Dementia Care
Congestive Heart Failure
Hypertension / Blood Pressure
Coronary Artery Disease
Mental Health and Depression
Home Care Support for Multiple Sclerosis
Paraplegia and Quadriplegia
Traumatic Brain Injury
Our Standard of Care
Caring Brands International
Aging in Place
Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Home Health Aide
8 Dietary Tips for Improving Senior Heart Health
Talking About Substance Abuse as a Caregiver
How to Take Care of Aging Hair
4 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality for Seniors
Designing Outdoor Living Areas for Seniors
Getting A Grip: How and Where to Install Bathroom Grab Bars
Keeping Active: Tips for Senior Gardening
Alzheimer's and Dementia
Calculating the Cost
Certified Senior Advisors
Consumer Health Care Education
Advisor Care Giving Guide
Care in a Residential Facility
Check Your Home Care IQ
Elder Care Communities
Medicare and Home Care
Senior Care Resources
Senior Care Scams
Signs That Care At Home is Needed
Long Term Care
Mobility in Seniors
Home Safety Checklist
Home Safety Tips
Medications and Fall Risk
Reduce the Risk of Falling
Risk of Falling
Visiting the Doctor and Discussing Falls
What to Do If Someone Falls
Elder Care Videos
Hiring Your Own Caregivers
Family Care Giving Facts
Information for Seniors
Long Distance Caregiving
Starting the Conversation
The Stress of Family Caregiving
Taking Care Of Yourself as a Family Caregiver
Home Care Technology
Hospice Fact or Myth
Exercise and Older Adults
Tips for Lowering Blood Pressure
Seniors and Zika Virus
Stories From Home
Transitioning from a Facility
Independent Living Assessment
How to Talk to Your Loved One About Hospice
How to Talk to Your Loved One About Hospice
Posted: 7/17/2018 9:01 AM by
The conversation doesn’t have to be as difficult as you think.
Contributed by Maura Rhodes, a health journalist based in Montclair, New Jersey, who has written about caregiving throughout all ages and stages of life.
Realizing that your parent or another loved one in your care has reached the point of needing hospice is painful. It means the time has come to make the person comfortable instead of trying to make them better. Broaching the subject of hospice can also be painful, and it can be hard to figure out how to do it. But the conversation itself doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might think.
“Often, the anticipation of having to bring up the possibility of hospice with a loved one is worse than the actual conversation,” says Andrea Devoti, executive vice president of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice.
To help you take a calm and carefully considered approach, Devoti offers this advice.
Know your audience
Chances are, you’ve known the person a long time — your entire life if they happen to be your parent. This means you have a history of communication and ways of interacting that you know work (or don’t). “It doesn’t have to be a melodramatic conversation,” said Devoti. “Approach your loved one as you always do. If your mother appreciates humor, start there. Take a factual but loving approach if that’s your relationship style.”
Check in first.
Whatever communication style you use, begin the hospice conversation with questions such as, “How are you?” “Are you comfortable?” “Are you happy?” “What would you like to do over the next month?” This lets your loved one know that you have their best interests in mind. The answers you get also will give you cues about how much they understand about their situation.
Choose your words carefully.
This sounds obvious, but what are the right words? Again, the language you use will largely be dictated by the relationship you have with your loved one. However, there are some words you might want to avoid. Ironically, one of those words is “hospice,” which people often equate with imminent death, says Devoti. “I’ve found it’s best to use the term ‘home care company.’ You can then go on to explain what that means. Tell your loved one, ‘Nurses and other qualified people will be coming in to care for you and keep you comfortable.’” Steer clear of medical jargon. Avoid phrases like “Based on your prognosis,” for example. Leave it up to doctors or other medical professionals to deliver information about their medical condition.
It may be tempting to take control of your loved one’s care, believing you’re less likely to meet resistance that way. And there may be some people who are happy to relinquish decision-making to someone else. But until you know that for sure, it’s best to ask the person if its OK for you to help.
Know how to respond to denial or anger.
If this is the response you get, don’t take it personally. Your loved one is responding to the situation, not you. “In that case, continue to give support,” says Devoti. “You may have to leave the room and let them calm down. This may be the time to call in the physician to talk to them about options. Some people take denial to the point of wanting to talk to another clinician. If you can, give them that opportunity.”
Be prepared for relief.
Many times, says Devoti, someone who has reached the point of needing hospice care is aware of their situation but afraid to admit it for fear of disappointing the people they’re close to. If it’s clear this is the case with your loved one, reassure them that you aren’t suggesting hospice care because you think they’ve given up but because you want to see them comfortable. Explain that with hospice care they’ll get the right medication and support they need for that to happen.
Keep it simple with dementia.
Depending on the stage of dementia they’re in, they may not understand what hospice care is. When explaining what’s going to happen and preparing them for the appearance of new people, Devoti advises focusing on the benefits. “You might tell them that as part of their medical care they aren’t going have to take medicines that make them feel sick anymore, rather than try to explain that their treatment is no longer working,” she says. Or emphasize that the people who are going to help can keep them free of pain.
Trust the hospice care experts to know what to do.
Remember that the nurses, social workers, aides and others who will be caring for your loved one have been trained to deal with all possible scenarios. They will know, for instance, that a senior with dementia might have stranger anxiety. “They won’t come in the first day all hustle and bustle,” says Devoti. “Instead, they’ll start with an activity the person enjoys, such as looking at pictures, to help them feel comfortable.”
Hospice isn’t about giving up the struggle to live but about maximizing the quality of life in the time that remains and working through the spiritual and emotional challenges that arise near the end, for both patients and their loved ones. Hospice teams also help loved ones through the bereavement process.
Interim HealthCare offers
both in home and at nursing homes and senior living residences.