The Role of A Loved One
Whether you have recently been given the news that a loved one should seek hospice care or they have already begun the process, you might be asking yourself, “What now?” Maybe you have been their caregiver for some time or have come from out of town to help in these final days, weeks, or months, and you’re wondering what your role is. By becoming more informed of what lies ahead, you can be better prepared to support your loved one through their end-of-life journey.
Advanced Care Planning
You may have been named your loved one’s patient advocate through a healthcare power of attorney. It is a great honor and an important job as this person is responsible for speaking on behalf of the individual about their medical care should they be unable to do so themselves.
It is important to take the time to have meaningful conversations with the person about their healthcare preferences. If you are in a situation where you have to speak on their behalf, you will be asked to share what the person would want. You must also be able to advocate for the person’s healthcare decisions even though you may not personally agree with those decisions. At Faith Hospice, social workers can help coordinate and lead these discussions to ensure that they are productive yet sensitive to your loved one's feelings and desires during this emotional time.
Ideally, any preferences and decisions should be put in writing as a part of your loved one’s advanced care planning—this takes some of the burden off of you. If your loved one has not gone through the process of advanced care planning, there are a number of resources on Making Choices Michigan’s website here: Or, as always, you can ask your Faith Hospice team.
Hospice’s Role vs. Your Role
Hospice staff are not at a patient’s bedside at all times but rather supplement the care already being provided and equip caregivers like yourself with added resources to provide end-of-life care. Loved ones continue to play an important and necessary role in providing both emotional and physical support to a hospice patient. 
In addition to visits by the Faith Hospice team, staff will serve as navigators and train you in the care your loved one will need, including preparing you for both the physical and psychological changes and symptoms your loved one might go through. You’ll also be trained on the medication you can administer to help alleviate these symptoms and keep your loved one as comfortable as possible while in your care. 
“The caregiver in the home is the one who provides the personal, around-the-clock care as needed. Initially, it is the simple provisions to make sure meds are taken and meals are prepared. Then it may be helping to the bathroom, changing, and turning your loved one. It’s very hands-on.” — Amy S., Faith Hospice RN Case Manager
While physical care and comfort are necessary, emotional and spiritual support is equally important as your loved one journeys through various stages of end-of-life and the emotional challenges that come with them. Being present and reassuring them that you are there—even if they may not be able to converse with you—can bring great comfort and peace to your loved one.
“When my husband was dying, we continued talking to him, and he let us know in his own way that he could hear us.” — Theresa L., Faith Hospice Quality Assurance RN 
For more on what to expect in your loved one’s final days and how you can support them, head to our blog post, “What to Expect in the Final Days.”  Additionally, the Faith Hospice Green Training Manual provided to all patients has many beneficial resources.
Taking Care of Yourself
Providing comfort and care for someone at the end of life can be physically and emotionally exhausting. If you’re a primary caregiver, ask for help when needed and accept help when it's offered. We understand that caregiving can be stressful for even the most experienced and prepared, and while caring for a sick loved one is one of the most meaningful jobs in the world, another part of your role is to take care of yourself. Stepping out of the room, going for a walk, and asking for help when you need it can help ease some frustrations and difficulties you may encounter.

“End of life is a marathon, not a sprint. Caregivers need to maintain their own health. If the caregiver is not healthy, who takes care of the patient?”— Molly N., Faith Hospice RN Case Manager

Friends and family are usually eager to do something for you and the dying person, but they may not know what to do. You can make a list of “to-do’s” to make it easier to suggest a specific task to someone who offers to help.
In the end, consider that there may be no “perfect” death. The deep pain of losing someone close to you may be softened a little by knowing that, when you were needed, you did what you could. You will make a difference one moment, one touch at a time.
Serving Patients & Their Loved Ones
“Being a caregiver is the most important and challenging gift of love.” — Mike H., Faith Hospice Chaplain
The reality of being a caregiver is challenging, but it is not without beautiful and meaningful moments. Faith Hospice is always available to help you through the challenges you may experience. If at any time you have any questions or concerns throughout your loved one’s hospice journey, we have a care team consisting of physicians, registered nurses, social workers, and chaplains who are on-call to address any concerns, emergent issues, or symptoms.