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5 Things a Family Caregiver Should Discuss with Their Elderly Family Member Receiving Palliative Care

These Emotional, But Important Conversations Help You Plan Ahead

As a family caregiver, you’ve taken on a great deal of responsibility. One of them is building and maintaining a close relationship with the elderly family member you care for. As your family member ages and requires palliative care for their chronic illness, it’s time to talk to them about what comes next.

These conversations probably will be difficult for one or both of you, but it’s vital to be on the same page in order to provide the best possible care for your elderly family member and to carry out their wishes.

Lifestyle Preferences
Talk to your elderly family member about how they prefer to live as they age. Include all available choices in the conversation, including living independently at home for as long as possible, moving in with a family member, living in an independent- or assisted-living community, or receiving care in a skilled nursing home.

The living arrangements that work well now may not in the future. What key indicators will let you know it’s time for a change in living arrangements? Both you and your loved one should agree on these signs.

Regardless of where your elderly family member lives, they can continue receiving palliative care – which we call comprehensive disease management – from Phoenix Home Care & Hospice, including in a nursing home. Our palliative care team remains steadfast in their dedication to their patients, no matter their residence.

Advanced Directives
For palliative care patients or those receiving home hospice, advanced directives are vital. Advanced directives are legal documents that explain your loved one’s wishes for their end-of-life care. These serve as a guide for their healthcare team, including palliative and hospice care, physicians, and hospitals they visit. Advanced directives usually include a durable power of attorney for health care and a living will.

A durable power of attorney for healthcare allows your loved one to name someone they choose as a healthcare proxy – someone they trust to make decisions for them about life support and surgeries. This person is also a designated contact to speak directly with their healthcare providers without violating HIPAA. A living will explains the treatments you wish to receive if you’re permanently unconscious or dying.

Ask your loved one if they have prepared these documents; if they haven’t, ask if they’d like help finding an attorney who can help them do so. Ultimately, the decision about who they name their durable power of attorney is up to them. The Phoenix Home Care & Hospice team can provide guidance on creating these documents if you or your loved one are feeling overwhelmed. Read our blog about advanced directives for more information.

Finances
Your elderly family member may not feel comfortable having a candid conversation with you about their finances. In fact, they may prefer to work with an estate planning attorney. However, at the bare minimum, as their main caregiver, you should be aware of:

  • Whether they can afford to pay for future care or related services that Medicare may not cover, particularly as their needs change.
  • Where to access information about their finances, or who to contact about them in an emergency.
  • Whether they have added trusted family members to their financial accounts “on death” to prevent assets from going into probate, or if they have a last will and testament (which is different from a living will).

 

Transitioning from Palliative Care to Hospice Care

Your elderly family member is already receiving palliative care at home to help them manage and treat their chronic illness. However, there may come a time that your loved one’s illness is not curable, or curative treatments aren’t worth the side effects. This is when your loved one may wish to transition to hospice care.

Hospice care helps your loved one stay as comfortable and active as possible through symptom and pain management, while supporting the family. When receiving hospice care, any attempts to cure the illness have ceased, and your loved one may have received a prognosis of six months or fewer to live.

If you serve as your elderly loved one’s primary caregiver, talk to them about the conditions under which they’d transition from palliative care at home to home hospice. What would prompt them to cease treatments for their chronic illnesses? When you’re aware of their wishes, you can help them plan for the future.

Please note that hospice care can be provided to those with a longer prognosis. Both hospice and palliative care services can be provided anywhere your loved one lives. Phoenix Home Care & Hospice is happy to talk to you about your options.

Memorial, Funeral, or Burial Plans

Family caregivers may find themselves tasked with carrying out their loved one’s final wishes. If this responsibility falls to you, be sure to talk to your loved one about their memorial, funeral, or burial plans in advance. They may want to put their wishes in writing.

Ask about the type of service your loved one would like held, and who should carry it out – clergy or layperson? Do they have any special requests for the funeral services, such as music or prayers? Do they prefer to be buried or cremated? What should be done with their ashes, if they’re cremated? Do they have a preferred funeral home? Have they already secured a burial plot?

It’s a difficult and somber conversation, but it’s ultimately necessary to ensure your loved one’s dignity, even in death.

Get Help Planning a Full Continuum of Care for Your Loved One

As your loved one ages or their condition worsens, Phoenix Home Care & Hospice is here for you with our full continuum of care – including services that offer emotional and spiritual support for patients and their families. Learn more about our services by visiting our website.

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Wesley Koenig, RN

Meet Wesley Koenig, RN from our Columbia location. Wesley, we are so thankful for your dedication to your clients and Phoenix Home Care and Hospice!

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