Aspirus Comfort Care & Hospice Services

Care for the Caregiver

A terminal illness has an effect on the whole family. Caring for a terminally ill family member can be rewarding, but it is physically and emotionally the most difficult job the caregiver and family will ever have. The Aspirus Comfort Care and Hospice Services staff is there to help the entire family cope during this difficult time.

At times during the illness the patient may act angry or strange toward family members. Most often this is due to frustration and may mean "Why did this happen to me?" The anger is usually directed at the people the patient knows will always love and care for them in spite of what they say or how they act. Try to discuss your feelings with them but be aware that the patient may not realize that they are acting differently. Feel free to discuss your fears and feelings with the Aspirus Comfort Care and Hospice Services staff.

Caring for a terminally ill patient can be physically demanding as well.It is very important to take care of yourself.If you don't get enough rest and time for yourself, you will not be able to stay physically and emotionally able to care for the patient.

  • Plan time for yourself away from home.
  • Try to get at least six hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
  • Take naps when the patient is sleeping during the day.
  • Maintain a balanced diet.
  • Lessen time spent on your regular responsibilities such as household chores.
  • Ask other family members and friends to help. Sometimes they are just waiting to be asked. They may be able to do some shopping for you or fix a meal.Just sitting with the patient and sharing some common memories may be enjoyable for all.

If you find you are getting exhausted, let your nurse know. She may be able to suggest an easier plan for caring for the patient. Aspirus Comfort Care and Hospice Services has volunteers who are trained in caring and working with terminally ill patients and their families.

Certified Nursing Assistants may be able to assist with patient's bathing and personal hygiene needs. There may also be some community options available to you. Ask your nurse or social worker to explore these with you.

The Aspirus Comfort Care and Hospice Services program has social workers to provide support to the patient and family as they face changes in their roles and relationships. This support may include identifying community resources available and providing advice concerning financial problems associated with prolonged illness. The social worker can also provide assistance with the completion of Advance Directives.

Facing illness and death as a family unit makes it easier for the caregiver, but not all families can be open and share their feelings. Each member of the family is unique and deals with the patient in his or her own way. Your nurse, social worker, minister or the Aspirus Comfort Care and Hospice Services chaplain may be able to bring the family together to talk, listen and help each other.

Children have some special needs when dealing with illness and the impending death of someone they love. Death may have different meanings to them depending on their age and stage of development. It is important to be honest with them and answer their questions in a way they can understand. Do not tell the child that the patient is going to "sleep" as the child may associate death with bedtime and sleep. Have the children spend time with the patient and involve them in helping to care for the patient. This will lessen their fears. Children will need extra comfort, affection and structure during this time. Try to stick as closely as possible to their normal routines.

For some patients and their families, religion, church community and their own personal relationship with God can be a strong source of support and strength. You may want your local clergy or the Aspirus Comfort Care and Hospice Services Chaplain to become more involved. Some patients and families may not find religion to be a source of help. The Aspirus Comfort Care and Hospice Services team will respect each person's needs and beliefs.