How to support loved ones with children in hospice care

Having a terminally ill loved one is cause for great distress and sadness. Having a terminally ill child in children’s hospice takes those feelings and multiplies them.

No parent or guardian wants to see their child suffer. With this comes feelings of frustration, grief, sadness, stress, a need to take the pain away. Parents may endure constant medical treatments and setbacks with their child. They may have to juggle caring for their ill child while also rearing healthier children, or simply with their day-to-day lives outside of caring for their kid. 

Caregivers are thrown into a multitude of roles, and what they most often need is support.

Understand what hospice care does.

As a foundation of your support to these caregivers, you should understand what hospice care does. 

Hospice care on its own provides great support for parents and guardians. It addresses physical and emotional needs, as well as spiritual and psychological ones. 

Hospice care tailors itself to the needs of the patient. It can handle medical equipment, medications, day-to-day care, or emergency care. 

Once you have a handle on what hospice care provides, you can help fill in the gaps where the caregiver needs support the most. 

Be direct with your ask.

Notice the dishes are piling up in the sink, or that laundry hasn’t been done for days? Don’t ask the caregiver, “What can I do?”, but rather, “Can I do this specific thing for you?”

Their minds are already stressed and they may not be able to formulate needs properly. Simply observing surroundings may help you determine what they need. 

Keep an open ear.

Oftentimes caregivers need to talk. This can be a serious conversation about their feelings or an ongoing problem they are having.

It can also be as simple as catching up about the latest ball game or finding out what’s going on in your life. 

Connecting with another human is often a way to process a bevy of emotions. Let them speak freely, and offer advice when asked.

Give room for self-care.

Caregivers are so wrapped up in looking after someone else they often forget about themselves. Be sure to touch base with them on what their current self-care looks like. 

Does it involve taking a 15 minute walk every day? Cooking a meal on their own? 

Have they neglected self-care altogether? Offer to take a task off their hands to free up alone time for them.

Seek other professional support.

Sometimes hospice care and the support of loved ones isn’t enough. If you feel the caregiver in question needs help from a professional, take the steps to do research on local counselors or social workers. 

Taking the grunt work out of this task may make it easier for the caregiver to accept additional outside help that they might not have otherwise had time to look for. 

Educate other family members on how to give support.

Though you feel comfortable in your ability to provide support, other family members or close friends may not.

Be collaborative with others looking to help. Share your experiences with them and what you know about the caregiver’s needs. This helps grow the support network.

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