Love, respect, duty and a desire to help are some of the reasons you’ve most likely stepped up to care for a friend or family member with a terminal illness. These last days, weeks or months are valuable times to both reminisce about the past while making new memories. When someone enters hospice, your support may be the last act of love you are able to provide. Assisting someone at this emotional stage is difficult and it’s easy for caregivers to get burned out or develop serious health conditions.
Think about how you’ll manage this responsibility and understand your rights. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, most employers are required to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for family members who need time off to care for a spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition.
Acknowledge death and dying. Avoiding the discussion about death can actually add stress. If you don’t know where to start, just follow your loved one’s lead. Allow quality time to be present with your loved one, not just doing tasks for them.
Use these helpful tips to take charge of your emotional and physical health:
Acknowledge you can’t do it all. Don’t take on more than you can realistically handle. Tasks and chores that a loved one used to do add up quickly, like paying bills, washing dishes or household fix-it jobs. Identify what you do well and want to do for your loved one and delegate other tasks.
Practice gratitude. Adopting an attitude of gratitude doesn’t mean you have to be grateful for the illness, but grateful for the little things like coffee, a beautiful sunrise or a friend stopping by.
Learn about the illness and what you can expect. Your doctor and hospice nurse are two great sources of information. Many major illnesses also have organizations dedicated to research, cure and support that are a good resource too.
Pay attention to your emotions. Taking care of a loved one with an illness or disability can stir up complicated feelings. You may have great days when you have a deep sense of fulfillment and connection. And hard days, filled with guilt, grief or anger. You might even have conflicting feelings, like love and resentment, at the same time. It can be challenging and exhausting.
Find constructive ways to express yourself, learn to walk away and give yourself a “time out” when you are angry or frustrated.
Some of the emotions you may experience include:
- Doubting decisions
- Loss of (control, independence, future, identity)
We tend to ignore grief, especially while our loved one is still alive, but anticipatory grief is perfectly normal. Mourn the person who is no more, while engaging with the person who is still with you. Just be with them and listen.
- Take time to relax
- Practice deep breathing or meditation
- Use aromatherapy
- Listen to music
- Get outside/enjoy nature
- Talk with your doctor
- Although eating right, exercise and rest seem simple; they are some of the easiest things to neglect when you are busy or stressed:
- Eat right—good nutrition not stress snacking, limit alcohol and drugs
- Exercise—the best cure for depression and increases your endorphins (“good” coping hormones)
- Sleep—7-9 hours may be hard to get, but it’s essential
Learn more, contact Tabitha Hospice at 402.486.8506 or a Tabitha Bereavement Coordinator today.