It’s natural for families to feel anxiety and a certain level of uncertainty when their loved one enters hospice care. Emotions are often raw and exposed when families find themselves walking alongside their loved one in their end-of-life journey. At a time of great distress and heartache, it becomes even more important for hospices to engage with others from a place of sensitivity and compassion.
While bereavement services are required by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) after a patient dies, this aspect of care has only been further complicated by the challenges of the past year. For families and caregivers, though, transitioning to grief support may be a natural step to help them in an oftentimes emotional journey.
Prior to the pandemic, many hospices offered in-person gatherings for those who were grieving. Others arranged one-on-one sessions with spiritual counselors, church presentations, or other meetings within the community or at skilled nursing facilities. That has all been disrupted by COVID-19.
Since nothing is “normal” anymore, hospice care providers have had to get creative and start thinking outside the box. Below are a few suggestions that hospices may offer to grieving loved ones as they try to find some peace and comfort during a difficult time:
1. Offer a Helpline
Sometimes people just need to talk. This is why helplines, which the CDC recommends, are so widespread and helpful.1 At their best, they can guide someone through their most troubling moments and help them see things in a different light. In other times, they can offer those who are grieving a pair of ears to listen. Either way, providing families with a number to call whenever they need it can be key, and this is even more important now when loved ones are unable to see one another often.
2. Compile Resources
Grief can be complicated, and some people may be less interested in discussing their pain with others.2 While they may spend some time sharing and benefit from group support, they may also need time alone to go through their own process. Here, other resources can be helpful. Hospices can offer bereavement newsletters, written materials, or pre-recorded videos with a slew of information, or just the right words that people need to hear at the right time. For those who find solace in alone time and knowledge, such resources can be invaluable.
3. Facilitate Dedication Services
One way that people work through loss is by finding some elements of closure. Beyond the spiritual context, cultural rituals around death serve to memorialize life and help loved ones start to heal. This, in many cases, has been taken away since gatherings have been smaller or simply unfeasible during the pandemic. In turn, certain creative grief support options have developed. Many Italians, for example, have opted to plant a tree in honor of the person they lost.3 Others have turned to virtual memorials to honor their loved ones.4 Though dedications like this may seem like a small act, it can mean the world to families who are seeking ways to keep the memory and spirit of their loved one alive.
4. Provide Professional Care
While often overlooked, one of the best ways to help ease a family’s mind is to provide quality, patient-centered hospice care to their loved one. Modern EHR solutions, such as Optima Hospice, and efficient processes can also help ensure a seamless, optimal level of care every step of the way. As a result, the patient can experience better outcomes throughout their time in care, and their loved ones will be able to navigate grief and loss as well as can be expected.
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1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Grief and Loss,” June 11, 2020.
2 Columbia School of Social Work, “The Center for Complicated Grief: Resources for the Public,” 2021.
3 Associated Press, “With Heavy Hearts, Italians Mark Year of COVID-19 Outbreak,” February 21, 2021.
4 NBC Los Angeles, “Funerals Are Not Essential, and It’s Prolonging Heartache During the Pandemic,” July 24, 2020.