Hospice Can Help Caregivers

Hospice can help caregivers well before our loved ones reach the end. In many cases hospice organizations can provide supplies and in-home aid that we struggle to obtain on our own. Despite the value of this support there is some stigma around the term hospice. Many #caregivers hesitate to say the word.

Hospice can help caregivers

The past few months have been so difficult at our house. We suffered through the winter snow and ice storms. A member of my weekly support team injured her wrist and couldn’t help us. Another person couldn’t get here because of serious car problems. At the same time, I was struggling to get mom’s tax records together, do my own taxes, and finish the renovation of her old home. All these issues swirled together to create a funnel of chaos in my life. My work suffered. Some times I couldn’t sleep. I felt like I was collapsing into a swamp of pain each night. Sore back, aching shoulders, worried mind.

Somewhere in the midst of this tempest, one of our helpers told me about a hospice group that helped her grandmother. She raised the subject gently and with tact. She said, “I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. I just think they might be able to help. They supported my grandma for nearly two years before she passed.”

As she explained it, the word hospice sounded less like a betrayal. I’ve always felt that I should keep my thoughts about Mom’s mortality to myself. My mother can’t speak. Maybe she does think about death, but I feel it’s unfair for me to share my fears when she can’t voice hers. This might be completely misguided thinking. I just haven’t been sure how to broach the topic in her presence.

Some Benefits of Hospice Care

The hospice group — which is named Compassionate Care — came to our house within hours of my first phone call. They sent a nurse to assess Mom’s health that night. The nurse approved services right away. Within 48 hours, I heard from another nurse, two chaplains, and a social worker. My work schedule was very busy so I felt a bit overwhelmed by the sudden flood of attention. But since they started working with our family, the hospice team has provided tremendous help.

Now UPS delivers basic supplies like chucks, gloves, and wipes to our door. That means I don’t have to drive to CVS or Rite Aid every few days. They’ve assigned an aide to help out at our house four days a week. I also learned that they arrange #respite care for family #caregivers. I never really wanted to discuss my fears about mom’s decline, especially not with strangers. Yet I’ve already engaged in several two-hour conversations that involved a lot of soggy tissues. Seems like there may be more of these talks in my future.

I’m not saying hospice is the right choice for everyone. But I’m sure I would have put this off longer if someone hadn’t suggested it to me. By waiting, I’d still be missing out on valuable help. We had my mom evaluated for hospice once before. At that time, they said she was a borderline case. This time the nurses had no doubts. The only one with doubts was yours truly. By erasing these doubts, I realize that seeing things more clearly is a great blessing.

Caregiver Life Span

Research studies warn that stress can shorten the caregiver life span, but our lives are not one dimensional. Most of us did many other things before we got involved in #caregiving. We can also play different roles in the future, especially if we protect our health. Here are some ways we can add back the years that #caregiver stress might steal.

caregiver life span

Increasing Caregiver Life Span

Most of these suggestions are drawn from an article called Live Long and Prosper, written by Alyssa Giacobbe and Jessica Migala, published in Women’s Health, Jan/Feb 2017. Although the following ideas appeared in a magazine targeted to women, their life extending power can help #male caregivers, too. Some recommendations seem obvious. If you want to be healthier, eat nutritious foods and eliminate soda pop from your diet. Other suggestions promote health benefits you might have overlooked. Start with the basics:

  • Take in more Vitamin D by drinking fortified milk and eating egg yolks — it could add 5 years to your life.
  • Walk just 10 minutes a day (or more if possible) to add 1.8 years to your life. Walking helps you ward off illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.
  • Volunteering your time — whether it’s at a local school or an animal shelter — can add between 4 and 7 years to your life. You may not have time to donate right now because #caregiving demands your full attention. But if the day comes when your loved one must move to a different care setting, dedicating time to a social cause can be therapeutic and beneficial to your health.
  • Eating six servings of leafy greens and two cups of berries each week can add 7.5 years to your life.

Less obvious ways to add healthy years

  • Owning a dog can add TEN years to your life. Dogs need to be walked, so they help their owners stay fit. They also give you unconditional love, which helps lower blood pressure and risk of depression.
  • Build a group of friends that you socialize with at least once a week. For some mysterious reason, having six friends is the magic combination.
  • Developing a sense of purpose in life can increase your life span by 8 years. Some of us find that caregiving brings tremendous meaning and purpose to our lives, but we may only play this role for a limited time. Staying healthy as we age means finding purpose across the entire scope of our lives as family and other relationships change.

And now, a surprising and simple habit that can add six years to your life:

  • FLOSS YOUR TEETH!

Don’t ask me how flossing increases your life span. Studies simply find that people who floss regularly have lower rates of heart disease.

I feel like a wrung out dish rag at the end of most days, but I believe I could do most of the things on this list. I’m not ready to get a dog, but I’m happy to walk my neighbor’s rescue pup whenever she asks, and I love berries.