Hospice means caring for a patient holistically - body, spirit, and mind. May is Mental Health Awareness Month so we wanted to highlight why caring for a person's mental well-being at end of life is just as important as managing their physical pain.
Living is hard, even when the circumstances are seemingly "easy" on the outside. The happiest people will inevitably deal with feelings of anxiety or depression at one point or another, but for many, the daily internal struggle of having a mental illness can be debilitating.
Diagnoses like Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Depression, OCD, etc., don't just go away as we age or deal with a terminal illness. It's crucial to remember that those who are entering hospice care are experiencing things they've never felt before, which can heavily impact existing mental illnesses. These new feelings and emotions also affect their loved ones and caretakers.
We've listed a few ideas on how to care for a hospice patient's mental health:
1. If a patient has been receiving treatment or taking medication for a mental illness, make sure to discuss that with your team of professionals and ensure it continues as they enter hospice care (if it is the wish of the patient and family).
2. Consider having your hospice team do special mental healthcare training sessions and practice becoming familiar with mental health conditions and symptoms.
3. Provide mental health resources and professionals as part of hospice care to those who may realize they need it. This applies to family members and caretakers as well.
4. Ensure everyone at the company knows how to approach delicate mental health situations with the utmost compassion. Coming to terms with the end of one's life can be an incredibly vulnerable and scary time for people, so having a team that knows how to make patients feel safe to share their feelings can make all of the difference.