Hospice & Palliative Care Resources

Addressing Your Family’s Needs When a Loved One is Terminally Ill: Part I

July 1, 2017

Chronic and terminal illnesses take their toll not only on the patient, but on family and loved ones as well. No one wants to see anyone they care about suffer through pain —emotional and physical — and the issues of how to manage one’s personal needs and those of the terminally ill patient can be difficult to navigate for anyone.

Attending to everyone’s needs can stretch caregivers to the limit and cause stress for loved ones. Some caregivers and family members may be overwhelmed by anticipatory grief or the enormity of the care their loved one requires while others swing into action and line up the healthcare or hospice support they need. 

However, there are a few steps that patients, partners, spouses and others can take to make some aspects of the end of a life a little more manageable, from the pragmatic to the deeply personal. 

In this post, we share the more practical aspects of addressing family needs as well as making sure the terminally ill person is well-supported and cared-for at the end of his or her life.

Directives and POAs

On the more practical side there advanced medical directives (also called living wills). An advanced directive spells out a person’s personal desires regarding the kind of medical treatment he or she wishes in the event it becomes impossible or too difficult to convey those wishes on one’s own. 

Thinking ahead and communicating these treatment preferences in a legal document provides loved ones with guidance during a highly stressful time and spares arguments among family members regarding treatments to seek. Issues such as “do not resuscitate” and “extraordinary” medical measures, whether to seek curative, palliative or hospice care and more are included in these important documents.

Another is a health care power of attorney (POA), which appoints someone to make health care decisions on a patient’s behalf. As that patient’s proxy, this person becomes the spokesman and advocate on a range of medical treatments the patient sets out for the proxy. 

No one ever needs to wait until serious illness befalls them to draw up either of these documents and have an open discussion with family.  When the time to act on end-of-life treatment comes, these arrangements become invaluable.

Hospice care and support

Hospice care encompasses physical, emotional, and spiritual needs for patients for whom a cure is not possible and aggressive treatment isn’t desired. In addition to pain management for the patient, hospice care may include psychological or pastoral counseling, support groups, and music or other supportive therapies to provide comfort for all involved.

At the Center for Hope Hospice we offer symptom relief, pain control, and a great deal of support for our residents and their families in many ways.

Our spiritual counselors and social workers are trained to listen respectfully and support the journey of our patients and their family members regardless of faith or beliefs. Our bereavement support groups, for family members of our residents and those we serve in the community, are held in both Father Hudson House in Elizabeth and Peggy’s House in Scotch Plains. People find great benefit and comfort in talking to trained counselors as well as others who have faced similar circumstances. Guidance and support groups help family members deal with feelings of anger or fear, provide a safe space to express feelings, enable one to explore spiritual concerns and much more. Whatever helps the bereaved navigate the choppy waters of grief, the Center is here to help. We also have visits by musicians, therapy dogs, and volunteers as part of our offerings.

For more information about the Center for Hope’s spiritual and bereavement services, please contact us at 908.889.7780 or email info@cfhh.org.