Hospice care seems like an almost saintly concept as people tend to patients who need end-of-life care. Yet there are limits to what kind of care hospice services can provide and that is where home care fills the gap.
“In many cases, it is expected when someone signs up for hospice that they will get 24/7 care,” said Sara Griswell, Operations and Outreach Director at Homewatch CareGivers serving Boulder County, Colorado. “Hospices do not provide that care unless it is a very close to the end-of-life situation.”
Homewatch CareGivers serving Boulder County is just one of the Homewatch CareGivers locations across the country that has developed partnerships with local hospice organizations. “Usually they will call us and connect us with people who might benefit from our services,” explained Griswell of partnering with hospice organizations.
These non-medical services for hospice patients and their families might include bathing, repositioning, and incontinence care for the patient and also family support. “We are there to support the families with companionship, preparing meals for the family, running errands, so that person is able to care for the patient,” said Griswell. “Often we do a few shifts a week to give the primary caregiver a break or we might be there when a family member is out of town.”
A person typically receives hospice care when a doctor has diagnosed them with six months or less to live due to illness. Yet there are instances when a person may live for another two years and be receiving some hospice care.
Griswell said that sometimes when a person is dying, their family might prefer to maintain the same boundaries and relationship they had with their loved one rather than suddenly be providing intimate personal care. “The majority of the time we are called in when a family is in crisis,” she said. “The family may feel overwhelmed and need support while they get used to their new roles.” During this transition, Griswell said that they offer access to Homewatch CareGivers University so that clients can learn more about what they might need to do for the patient.
Typically Griswell gets a call when a family member realizes that they have overextended themselves in trying to provide all of the care for their loved one. “We get calls at the last minute for someone to come in overnight,” she explained. “People take on a lot out of love and respect and then find they have overcommitted themselves and realize they are exhausted. They have to take care of themselves and be more available and be more present with that person.”
In contrast, hospice care is there to provide emotional, spiritual, bereavement and medical support for families, but not to run personal errands or sleepover.
A person does not have to be in hospice to receive 24/7 services from Homewatch CareGivers.” In many cases the 24/7 non-hospice care is for dementia care,” said Griswell. “In other cases it is either for a long-term physical disability or short-term for surgery or other medical crisis.” She said they do have some clients for whom they have done 24/7 care for years because they do not have family locally to provide any in home care or assistance. There are also times when a family goes on vacation for a week or two and hires in home care to be with a loved one who is not well enough to join them. “Every situation is different,” she said.
Griswell’s role at Homewatch CareGivers is primarily administrative so she recently completed hospice volunteer training to have more client contact. “I don’t get a lot of one-on-one contact with our clients,” she said. “I have seen the amazing things hospice does in our community and I wanted to give back. I am accustomed to being around death and have a comfort level around of end-of- life situations so it’s a good opportunity for me to do something that a lot of people aren’t able to do.”