Some patients handle the conversation about electing to enter hospice care far more calmly than their families, who aren’t ready for that discussion. However, when it comes to terminal illness diagnoses, it’s important to start improving quality of life as soon as possible. While difficult, healthcare teams need to equip themselves with the right tools and knowledge to tackle this difficult topic with a patient’s loved ones.
Gain an Understanding of the Family’s Knowledge
If you’re wondering where or how to start the conversation about hospice with family, consider asking what they know about their loved one’s condition. Hearing their interpretation of the patient’s illness or state provides you with crucial insight. Giving the family a respectful yet honest answer regarding the patient’s current state and needs helps develop trust. This also offers families the context for the conversation to come.
Prepare To Dispel Hospice Myths
Many people aren’t familiar with hospice care. This lack of familiarity creates opportunities for misunderstandings and serious concerns, especially if someone has spent time on the internet before visiting you. Some myths to prepare for include the following:
- Going into hospice is giving up on life
- Entering hospice involves a DNR order
- Hospice care exclusively treats pain
Families rely on you to provide accurate information. Personal anecdotes may help provide comfort in some situations, but try to focus on reliable information when possible.
Make Resources Available for the Family
Before you start the conversation about hospice with family, try to collect a variety of resources that are pertinent to their loved one’s needs. Information on local hospice facilities, caregiver training, and even counseling resources are useful for the family as they leave your office. It takes time to process the idea of knowing they’ll lose a loved one in time, so empowering them with tools to use is crucial. From pamphlets to links to phone numbers, any resource can help.
When families hear that their loved one is considering hospice care, they may experience anticipatory grief. Family members are a vital part of quality end-of-life care for hospice patients, so caring for the family in their time of need is just as important. Remember to let the family know that what they feel is valid and provide assurance as much as possible so that you can all take the next steps with confidence.