Watching someone you love pass can be a stressful experience. As the end nears, it can become overwhelming to put your loved one into hospice care. The knowledge itself that they have only a few months to live can be a scary one, and when you add to that the duties of caregiving, you become more susceptible to anxiety, burnout, and depression. It is important to know how to deal with this kind of stress – so, here are a few ways to help you deal with it.
Accept the Stress
As you go through your caregiving duties, learn to stop and recognize the symptoms of stress. Ask yourself a few questions with regards to your overall health and well-being. Are you sleeping too much or too little? Are you going hungry for hours or overeating without thinking about it? Are you experiencing mood fluctuations, irritability, or anger? According to the American Medical Association Guidelines, you should take a step back if any of their criteria fits your current mood. If you are dealing with excessive anxiety throughout the hospice care term, the first step to approaching a solution is acceptance.
Organize the Tasks
Your hospice caregiving duties could range form a few to a multitude of tasks, depending on the condition of the patient. In general, these include providing physical comfort for the loved one, keeping them emotionally upbeat, connecting with them spiritually, and engaging them with integrative therapies for greater dignity and end-of-life comfort. Time management is a key pre-requisite for efficient caregiving. If you feel overwhelmed with your responsibilities, try to break the everyday challenges into smaller tasks. Without planning too much into the future, take each day or each hour as it comes.
Take Time Off
When caring for an end-of-life patient, it might not be possible to take a vacation. You might want to spend all of your time with that person while you can. However, it is crucial to take at least an hour out for yourself every day to avoid mental fatigue resulting from being so close to morbidity around the clock. Lower your daily stress by engaging yourself in another activity that you’ve missed – things like listening to music, reading, taking a walk, etc. Experts suggest tending to your own needs could prevent caregiving stress and burnout. Maintaining a journal can also help in this regard.
Putting someone under hospice care itself is typically a sign that their life is coming to an end. Perhaps everything that can be done to extend their life has been done and now the inevitable must happen. No matter how much you try, no one can prepare you for the moment when you lose someone under your care. Anxiety from knowing that there is limited time to be together can cause additional trauma. Studies show that not being prepared for a patient’s end-of-life vents could increase stress in family members. Talk to experts and seek professional advice from your hospice team to improve your preparedness.
Talk to a Therapist
Do not try to deal with the process of watching your loved one go alone. One of the advantages of having a loved one in hospice care is that apart from providing palliative care to the patient, we also offer counseling services for the primary caregiver and the rest of the family. If you feel stressed or depressed, talk to a therapist from our organization, whose suggestions might help you cope emotionally, as well as spiritually. You could also attend external group therapy sessions, centered on dealing with hospice and death. There are people who can listen when you need someone.
Most importantly – take care of yourself. No matter what the patient is suffering with, it’s important to remember that you can only do your best to make the remainder of their life comfortable so that they can leave this world in peace. It is normal to feel guilty that you have no done enough, or to grieve losing them. However, stress over such feelings is detrimental to your health and well-being.
Remember – there is help available and you are not alone.