The oversight, guidance and careful instruction of the hospice staff give caregivers the confidence to know that they are not alone. There is always a staff member available by phone 24 hours a day to address emergency questions or concerns.
So, when a caregiver is feeling confident that they are doing the best job possible for their loved one, there's another question to ask. Who is caring for the caregiver? Hospice sees that as a priority as well.
Both spiritual counselors and social workers are available to families, as well as patients. These trained professionals are good listeners and sounding boards for thoughts too heavy to bear alone. They are also practiced at facilitating important but difficult conversations among family members.
And finally, there are the volunteers who stop in to relieve the caregiver for a few hours. They might play a game of cards with the patient, work on a puzzle together or just chat for a while. The words are not as important as the feelings they convey. "Hi." "How are you doing?" "I was thinking about you." "You are still a part of the world and you still matter."
Families and their volunteers often become close because most volunteers have been down the same road themselves and find it easy to understand and empathize. They are good listeners too. And they know how much a few hours of respite to go shopping, get a haircut, have lunch with friends or just take a nap can revive tired bodies and sagging spirits. Like all involved in hospice care, their presence says "you are not alone."