The Vital Role of Caregivers

Updated on June 24, 2013

By Rafael J. Sciullo, MA, LCSW, MS

As Angie and Donna entered the room, the uncertainty on their faces was readily apparent. They were feeling a little lost, unsure, maybe even intimidated. After all, their husband & father was coming home from the hospital under hospice care. Norm’s illness had progressed to the point where he just wanted to be comfortable, surrounded by those he loved.

Norm would need his wife and daughter now more than ever. They were no longer only family – they were now assuming the roles of primary caregivers.

Maria, the Family Hospice and Palliative Care community liaison who met with Angie and Donna at the hospital, suggested they attend our Family Hospice Compassionate Caregiver Training Session.

“You already know how to love Norm,” Maria told them, “but you’re entering a crucial phase of his life with him. The training session will enable you to address his needs as a patient. You’ll learn how to help him be comfortable.”

Compassionate Caregiver Training provides hands-on instruction for those who care for Family Hospice patients at home.
Compassionate Caregiver Training provides hands-on instruction for those who care for Family Hospice patients at home.

Compassionate Caregiver Training is an approximately two-hour session offered free to those with a loved one under Family Hospice’s care. Among the first programs of its kind nationally, the sessions are designed to provide knowledge, basic skills and confidence for those caring for their loved one at home. By the end of the session, caregivers are familiar with medical equipment, common medications and skills such as positioning, bathing and feeding.

Compassionate Caregiver Training sessions began at our Center for Compassionate Care (inpatient center and administrative offices) in Mt. Lebanon. I am proud to report that the program has expanded in reach and is now available in several convenient locations:

The benefits of the Compassionate Caregiver Training program are twofold. The role of caregiver is certainly not an easy one – and can be quite taxing both physically and emotionally. The sessions also address the importance of the caregiver taking care of him or herself. This aligns with the hospice philosophy of caring for the patient and the patient’s loved ones.

So yes, Angie and Donna were a little anxious when they arrived at the Compassionate Caregiver Training Session. But they were greeted with a smile by our Family Hospice educators, who started by taking the time to assess Norm’s situation. “We know this is not easy – and is new to you,” Bill told the mother and daughter. “But that’s why we’re here, for you and for Norm.”

They had hands-on instruction. They asked a lot of questions. And by the end of the session, they were visibly relieved and felt confident in themselves that they could provide the support that Norm needed.

“Along with honoring Norm’s wishes for hospice, this is the best thing we could have done,” said Angie. “The educators at Family Hospice were patient, understanding, and thorough. What we learned, down to the smallest detail, was incredibly helpful. This has truly made all the difference.”

Rafael J. Sciullo, MA, LCSW, MS, is President and CEO of Family Hospice and Palliative Care and Past Chairperson of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. He may be reached at [email protected] or (412) 572-8800. Family Hospice and Palliative Care serves nine counties in Western Pennsylvania. More information at and


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