The loss of a loved one can be one of the most devastating events a person experiences. According to the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory, the death of a spouse tops the list of stressful events, while the loss of a close family member is number five.1 It’s no surprise, then, that the period immediately after a loss can be incredibly difficult for family members; they may struggle to sleep or eat, find themselves forgetting to do familiar tasks, and feel entirely overwhelmed by paperwork and processes after their loss.
Critical among these concerns are meeting the final wishes of a loved one before their death. While family members may want to honor the memory of the recently passed by ensuring their wishes are carried out, this can be challenging, especially if family members had limited contact with loved ones due to COVID-19 restrictions. Hospice providers can play an integral role in helping families fulfill final wishes. Here’s how:
Provide Compassionate Context Around End-of-Life Choices
The last wishes of a loved one may include specific instructions about what happens to their bodies after they die. Some may prefer traditional burials or cremation, while others may opt for “natural” burials that focus on returning the body to nature.2 But these wishes can come as a surprise to family members, especially if they’ve never had conversations with their loved one about their preferences before they pass.
Some members may oppose these wishes on moral grounds, while others may argue that they don’t align with what they knew of their loved ones in life. Here, personalized hospice care makes all the difference. Relationships formed with patients during their hospice stay allow hospice clinicians to provide context around end-of-life choices, and it can also help families better understand their loved one’s final wishes.
Clearly Communicate With Families About Care Concerns
Family members may also struggle with the idea that, as part of their final wishes, a loved one may have chosen to stop receiving care to the extent permitted by law. The reasons for refusal of care varies: Some patients may feel their quality of life is declining, while others may not want to continue treatment if it’s not having a measurable effect. In this case, when hospice providers offer centralized access to key documents and information about the patient, they can help give family members insight into why patients made the choice to end active care.3
Facilitate Family Connections to Help Ease Transitions
Compassionate hospice care focuses on the well-being of both patients and their families, in large part because families play a critical role in the administration of person-centered and individualized care.4 Depending on the nature of family dynamics and a patient’s last wishes, however, conflict can arise among family members about how best to honor these requests. Hospice providers may play the role of facilitator in helping families see eye-to-eye. Equipped with personal knowledge of the patient and bolstered by treatment and visit records, hospice caregivers can help provide family members much-needed closure about their loved one’s final days.
The passing of a loved one is never easy, but hospice providers can help families navigate these stressful events with compassion, dignity, and respect. Equip your hospice team with the tools and technologies they need to deliver compassionate care. Explore Net Health Hospice.
Best Practices to Eliminate Compliance Gaps in Hospices
Stay on track of compliance measures and goals for optimal patient care.
1 The American Institute of Stress, “The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory,” 2021.
2 The New York Times, “Thinking About Having a ‘Green’ Funeral? Here’s What to Know,” March 22, 2018.
3 National Institute on Aging, “Getting Your Affairs in Order,” June 1, 2018.
4 Springer Link, “Family Partnerships, Palliative Care and End of Life,” April 12, 2018.