None of us likes discussing hospice care or end-of-life care issues, but it’s a natural part of the aging process. When caring for a senior family member who’s made it clear they want to remain at home even after being diagnosed with a life expectancy-limiting condition like cancer, liver failure, or advanced pulmonary disease, it can be emotionally and physically draining to honor their wishes.
As their caregiver, you’ll need to be supportive and compassionate and keep them as comfortable as possible as their health gradually worsens. At some point, however, you’ll need to have that painful discussion about end-of-life care to ensure all their objectives are met, and their final requests carried out. To help make that difficult process go more smoothly, follow these guidelines.
Before sitting down with your loved one, consider all their end-of-life physical, emotional and financial needs. Communicate what you’ve learned with your siblings, and decide who all will be present for “the talk” with the affected family member. Mentally prepare yourself for what’s ahead, while focusing on these end-of-life discussion points:
- Access to their medical and insurance information, physician contacts, and preferred hospital
- A living will
- Investments and trusts
- Location of important documents like the deed to their home, car title, birth and marriage certificates, and banking records
- Funeral arrangements
- Durable power-of-attorney (POA)
Carrying Out “The Talk”
Most seniors know when their time is drawing near, so try to sensitively discuss it ahead of time by using an ice-breaker from a movie, book, or news story about end-of-life issues. It’s a subject that naturally makes most people uncomfortable, and when it affects your loved one, logically, you don’t want to upset them.
Once they seem open to discussing the topic, ask for permission to do so. To get started, be as reassuring as possible, and tell them how much they are loved, supported, and that the family will honor their wishes whenever possible. Let the conversation flow gently and ask questions only to clarify what they’re saying. If they get overcome by emotion or fatigue, it’s best to put off the remainder of the discussion for another day. If they have dementia, be sensitive to the fact it can cause frustration and confusion.
Other Important Points to Consider
Discussing end-of-life care is hard and there may be times when the emotional support of a friend, clergy member, or counselor is needed by one or more family members. Concerning your loved one’s wishes, keep in mind those could fluctuate from day-to-day, and that you and your family members need to be respectful of those changes. With that said, here are some other key points to consider as the inevitable moment draws near:
- Document their wishes. Keep detailed records of their final wishes, notably ones related to funeral arrangements, a living will, or POA, and get all important documents notarized.
- Notify all family members. Let all immediate family members know the circumstances so that they can reach out to your loved one if desired. Social media, including Skype or Snapchat, may be a viable alternative in instances where the family members live too far away to physically visit.
- Consider in-home hospice care. Professional in-home hospice caregivers are highly-trained and qualified to make a senior’s end-of-life experience as comfortable and dignified as possible. It will probably become necessary to seek hospice care as the burden of serving as a family caregiver begins to wear you down. And, that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Compassionate End-of-Life Care for Seniors
Serving as a family caregiver for an aging loved one facing end-of-life decisions can be painful and exhausting. When you need a break, a highly-trained respite caregiver from Colonial Home Care Services can step in and provide the compassionate in-home care and support your aging senior deserves.
Our caregivers deliver in-home, non-medical daily living support for seniors and their families that supplement hospice care and honor end-of-life wishes. The reliable services Colonial Home Care aids specialize in include personal hygiene, light housekeeping, transportation, companionship, meal preparation, and shopping assistance using a “no one-size-fits-all” approach to put your mind at ease.
For more information on how to discuss end-of-life issues with seniors, or about our family-trusted, senior home care services in Orange County, Long Beach, Mission Viejo & the surrounding area, contact us today.