Visiting a Patient in Hospice Care
If you know someone in hospice care, you may have concerns about visiting. Will you disturb them? Will you make them feel worse? Will they be able to enjoy your visit?
These are all valid questions, and their answers may depend on specific circumstances. However, there is one question that has a very clear answer. That is, should you visit? The answer is a resounding yes!
Connection to family, friends, and loved ones is one of the most important aspects of a rich end-of-life transition. We encourage patients and loved ones to spend as much time together as they can. However, to make the most of your visits, here are 5 important questions often asked about visiting hospice patients.
1. What should I bring?
Every patient is different, and their needs will change as time passes. Therefore, it’s a good idea to speak to a caregiver about what is appropriate at any given stage. However, here are some ideas and guidelines.
Food and flowers may or may not be a good idea. Some medications and conditions may make a patient sensitive to smells or pollen. Some lose the ability to enjoy certain foods. However, if their caregiver approves it, a favorite floral arrangement or treat may lift someone’s spirits dramatically.
There are many excellent gifts to leave. Magazines, books, movies, or artwork can help bring joy and interest to lonely times. However, the absolute best thing you bring is yourself. Your companionship and conversation will bless them infinitely more than any gift.
2. What should we talk about?
There’s no reason to talk about death or sickness unless they want to. On the other hand, if that’s what they want to talk about, that’s ok, too. The most important thing is to be there for them. For lighter conversation, however, here are some good starters.
Memories are always a good idea. Bringing photos or mementos of happy memories can be a great blessing to them. If they are able, take along a favorite movie or some music they love. This can be a great diversion from talking or thinking about difficult subjects.
Another wonderful idea is to bring photos, videos, or letters from those who cannot visit. Bring a video of their pets if they are unable to see them. Have distant relatives or friends record messages and share them together. Any opportunity to connect with the joy of their life can be extremely meaningful.
3. Who should visit?
The simplest answer is that anyone who has played a significant role in their life should visit. Friends, family members, co-workers they are close to, and clergy are all good suggestions. Talk to them about who to bring.
It is also a good idea to consider the stress level of certain relationships. This does not mean to avoid difficult visits altogether. If a relationship is strained, reconciliation is a powerful healer if it is possible. Talk with a caregiver or clergy member about how to handle these encounters.
4. Should children visit?
In most cases, children should absolutely be included. Many parents have a desire to shelter their children from death and suffering. However, the only way for children to learn how to deal with difficulty is to encounter it in a safe environment.
Talk with your children about what death is and is not. Talk with them in advance about things they might notice about their loved one that may disturb them. Again, a pastor or caregiver can also be an excellent source to help prepare them for their visit. Also, it’s best to stay in the room with them so you can help them process any difficulty afterward.
Children can actually be the easiest people for terminal patients to talk with. Children tend to treat patients normally when adults often cannot. This makes a child’s visit extremely beneficial to both the patient and the other adults present.
5. When should I visit?
There may be a point at which it becomes inappropriate for you to visit. This will generally be some time very near their end of life. Therefore, the best time to visit is as soon as possible.
Patients are allowed to enter hospice care when they are considered to be less than six months from death. At this point, many patients are still fully able to enjoy time with friends and family. It is important to take advantage of every opportunity to connect with them during this time.
As terminal conditions progress, it may be increasingly difficult to communicate. Now is the time for remembering, sharing, reviving or restoring a relationship, or just letting them know you are there. Don’t wait. Time goes by quickly, and sometimes death comes more rapidly than expected. Begin now, and you may save yourself regret after your loved one has gone.
Hospice and Palliative Care
At Crown Hospice in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, we believe in taking every opportunity to improve our patients’ quality of life. One of the best ways to do that is through connection with family and loved ones. If you believe you or a loved one may be in need of hospice care, please do not hesitate to call us today at 866-703-4801 (toll-free), or 573-335-4800. We are here for you and your family through every stage of end-of-life care.