Pathways HHH: The Holidays Don’t Stop For End of Life Care

The holidays are stressful but this is a good time to evaluate your senior loved ones. Just because you’re busy prepping for holiday festivities doesn’t mean end of life care gets put on hold. There are many days coming up that remind us to keep caring for the seniors in our lives: November 24 is National Family Health History Day and the whole month of November is devoted to National Family Caregivers Month, Family Stories Month and National Gratitude Month. These are great times to pause and reflect on our loved ones in hospice care.

Take time out from your busy holiday preparations to visit with your aging mom or dad, sibling, spouse or other loved one to ease the transition into end of life care. There are so many ways you can bring comfort. Here are a few tips:

Reminisce

Few things are more comforting than remembering the good ole days. Bring photo albums, videos, books, and journals, then just sit and talk about the memories that come flooding back.

Unfortunately for both the patient and the family caregiver, the struggles that come with hospice care can cast a shadow on a happier past. Particularly with Alzheimer’s Disease, you may feel like you’re losing your loved one a little bit every day.

That’s why reminiscence therapy is so beneficial. This type of therapy recalls events from the past using the senses: objects your loved one can touch, hold, smell, hear and taste.

When elders are isolated from their identities through failing memories, reminiscence therapy can help them connect with long-ago memories that keep them tethered to familiarity, according to Assisted Living Today.

Added benefits can include increased ability to communicate, distraction from daily challenges, increased sense of self-worth, and alleviation of depression. Plus, you’re helping preserve family stories for future generations to enjoy. Write down the memories while you can and keep them in a journal. This is a great activity as we enter Family Stories Month.

It’s also an ideal time to keep track of your loved one’s medical history as we honor National Family Health History Day. Take detailed notes and keep them in a separate journal.

Increase Comfort

There are many discomforts that come with end of life care, even if your loved one is on pain medications. One of those discomforts is skin irritation. Dryness of the face, particularly the lips and eyes, can be a challenge as your loved one gets closer to the end. As we age, our skin naturally gets drier and more fragile. Those confined to a bed can’t readily apply lotion as they need it, so take over this small yet helpful task for them. Apply alcohol-free lotion to relieve dry skin and lip balm to prevent chapping, advises the National Institute on Aging. You can also place a damp cloth over their eyes and give them ice chips to relieve dry mouth.

Spend Time Together

The holidays are a time to spend with loved ones. Just because your loved one happens to be in hospice doesn’t mean you can’t hold on to those last cherished memories. You may have to have a chat with your loved one about what they feel comfortable doing. Some may be saddened by the holidays, as they realize this is likely their last one. Others may rejoice this time and squeeze every last bit of tradition out of it that they can. Do what makes them comfortable. Play some favorite holiday tunes and sing along. Or, watch classic holiday movies that your loved one always enjoyed.

Give Thanks

No, we don’t mean eating Thanksgiving dinner, although that can be fun too. What we mean is…November is National Gratitude Month and there’s no better time to say thank you to your loved one in hospice.

Too often we assume people know how thankful we are for their efforts. But sadly, so many families go entire lifetimes without saying those important words: thank you.

But gratitude involves more than simply giving thanks. The power of gratitude is a mindset that can shift our focus from the negative to the appreciation of the positive in our everyday lives. You can extend gratitude not just to your immediate family and loved one going through end of life care, but also to the professionals and volunteers who are there every day to help bear the weight of your burden. They have their own families waiting for them at home to spend the holidays with and yet they choose to spend that time caring for your loved one. A sincere thank you can make a world of difference for patients and caregivers alike.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

The holidays don’t stop us from providing top-notch care and compassion. Pathways Home Health and Hospice has a dedicated team of caring home health care and hospice care professionals who can help guide you or your loved one through this difficult time. Contact us today at 888-755-7855 to learn more.