Support a caregiver
As community member, boss or friend, there are many things you can do to help:
* Bring pre-cooked, freezable meals
* Call when you are going to the store to see if you can pick something up and deliver it
* Arrange to help chauffeur children to school or extracurricular activities
* Be understanding of tears, stress and tiredness
* Find out when it is convenient and visit
The desire for career, family and social life balance is very common. Most of us have been successful in achieving it to varying degrees. Balance, after all, is a continuous act. After becoming comfortable with the quest for that balance, a new challenge threatens to upset the balance again. How do we add the care of aging parents into an already overly busy life?
In the past, community members supported each other through illness and all the needs associated with declining health. In these busy, more modern days, illness is often a more impersonal process with only medical personnel and immediate family involved. This is the gift of hospice care: Hospice brings community support back to individuals and the families facing life-limiting illness.
Yolo Hospice has a team available for each patient and their loved ones. The team functions much as the community once did. The team, in consultation with the patient and loved ones, determines needs and goals, and then does their best to support the patient and loved ones in meeting those needs and reaching their goals.
* Registered nurses make regular visits to check physical well-being and ensure that the patient is comfortable. They provide expertise, medication and education in managing symptoms. They also can arrange for delivery of any equipment and other resources needed. Yolo Hospice R.N.s are experts at teaching the skills that will ensure you are comfortable and confident about caring for your loved one. A nurse is available 24 hours a day by phone to answer your questions.
* Social workers fill a dual role. They provide emotional support, and guidance around additional support services, resources and final planning issues. Their work can relieve much of the outside stress regarding financial and other issues you may have.
* Spiritual care counselors help support your loved one and you with the emotions and questions that often surface with serious illness and caring for that person.
* Hospice aides make life a little easier and more comfortable with assistance in personal grooming, linen changing and other light housekeeping duties that benefit the patient and free loved ones from these tasks.
* Bereavement (grief) specialists provide grief support to caregivers and loved ones.
* Patient care volunteers give support, comfort and companionship to patients and their caregivers. They also can provide several hours of respite care that enables you to run errands, take a break or nap.
“All the team members are specialists who listen to patients, sometimes the most profound thing we do is to just be present and listen,” said Jody Norton, director of clinical services for Yolo Hospice. “From day one and as things change, Yolo Hospice will train and prepare you to provide the care your loved one’s needs.
“We are always available to answer a question, will make regular visits and come out to the house if a need arises. This support is both mentally and emotionally comforting to caregivers and patients. Care by Yolo Hospice brings an immeasurable level of security and confidence that I’m not sure can be fully appreciated unless you’ve been a caregiver.”
A total of 39.8 million people over the age of 15 provided unpaid care to someone over 65 years old in 2011. Life expectancy is now 79 years old for the average individual. We are living longer and — thanks to improvements in care — living and functioning longer with illness and disease. The demands of care giving for aging parents touch all parts of society — family, government, business.
It is never easy to talk about end-of-life issues and the specifics of a life-limiting illness, which can translate to fear of visiting whether you are visiting the patient or the caregiver. Just be honest and listen. Talk about news of friends and family, things you have enjoyed together in the past. Just being there will work for you too.
Tom Frankel, a Yolo Hospice patient care volunteer and former board member, advises “Just be there, be present, hear them, hold their hand.”
Yolo Hospice staff and volunteers will be there for anyone in the community who needs hospice services regardless of ability to pay. For more information, call Yolo Hospice at 530-758-5566 or visit www.yolohospice.org.
— Mary Odbert is Yolo Hospice’s public relations representative. Her column is published monthly.