Caring for Terminally Ill Patients and their Caregivers

Even in healthcare settings, death is (understandably) really uncomfortable to talk about. Most of us don’t want to think about our own death, let alone that of our loved ones. It’s hard– but that’s what makes these conversations so important to have in advance.

End of life care can be very stressful for both patients and families. Having conversations about wishes for end of life care now can make this difficult time a little less stressful later.¬†With the current pandemic, a lot of people aren’t even able to have their family around them, which I think we can all agree sounds even more difficult.

Care for Terminally Ill Patients

One of the most important things you can do, even if you are healthy right now, is to fill out advance directives. You can find New York’s here, and every other state’s here. These forms basically document your wishes about end of life care– what you would want in the event you can’t speak for yourself, who can make decisions about your healthcare, etc. While it can be really hard to fill these out and think about a time when they might need to be used, completing them and knowing that neither yourself or your family will be burdened with stressful decision-making is worth taking the time.

When patients are in the last few months of life, hospice is one of the options available to them. In Albany, the Community Hospice provides hospice services to patients at home, in nursing facilities, and also in St. Peter’s hospital at the Hospice Inn.

Visiting Angels is another option for in-home care, especially for people who want to remain as independent as possible. You can schedule visits and create a care plan to help with daily activities, providing company, and helping with meals and medications.

There are a couple more end of life care options that I have listed on a separate post here.

Supporting Caregivers

Caregiver burden can really affect the health of family caregivers and also patients. It’s important that caregivers get the support and relief they need when caring for a loved one– here are some resources in Albany for caregiver support, including a support group. Having been a caregiver myself, I know it can be really relieving to talk to people that have or are experiencing similar stresses.

Caregiving during a pandemic can be even more difficult– the CDC has listed some helpful tips for caregiving at this time to try and prepare for staying at home for a longer period of time. If you are caregiving for someone, it’s important to check in with yourself from time to time and recognize when you need a break. It can be really hard to ask for help, but doing it all alone also gets really overwhelming really fast. On the other hand, if you know someone that is a caregiver, make sure you take some time to ask them if they need anything (picking up medications, groceries) and what you can do to help.

While end of life care has always been a part of healthcare, I think this pandemic has increased awareness of its importance and brought it to everyone’s attention a little more. These conversations and experiences will always be difficult, but thankfully there are some resources that can help make sure patients and families receive support as they go through it.