Dealing with Depression During End-of-Life Care

Posted on Oct 12, 2017

Most people are vastly under-educated about the effects and scope of depression. Every year, more than 350 million people are thought to be affected by depression. The causes of depression are just as wide-ranging as the types of people it affects. No one, regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic level, or genetic history, is invulnerable when it comes to depression. One demographic that is particularly susceptible to depression is the terminally ill.

Dealing with grief is a ubiquitous experience during the final stages of life. However, this grief can easily turn into clinical depression if left unchecked. Thankfully, depression is a treatable condition, even in terminally ill patients.

The first step to treating depression in terminally ill patients is recognizing the symptoms. These symptoms are very similar to symptoms found in non-terminally ill patients. If you think your loved one is experiencing or may be on the verge of experiencing depression, look for changes in their mood, sleeping, appetite, weight, behavior, and cognition.

It’s important to remember that these changes can be caused by a myriad of other factors, so be sure to check with the attending physician before sounding the alarms.

Once depression has been identified as the root cause of these changes, there are several treatment options available. Medication and counseling are the two primary treatment options for depression. The hospice chaplain and bereavement consoler will be a fantastic resource for any hospice patients experiencing depression.

These counseling services are also available to the family of the patient, because depression doesn’t just affect the patient. Seeing your loved one go through the last stages of life and coping with their impending death can take a real toll on family members. This is why family members also need to vigilant to be spot depression.  

Going Out In Smoke

Posted on Oct 14, 2017

Smoking is a nasty habit, and we’re all well aware of the negative health effects. The CDC estimates smoking will take 10 years off your life and most likely be a strong contributing factor to your death. However, while the question of starting to smoke should always be answered with a resounding no, is it okay for a patient to keep smoking once they enter end of life care?

The answer to this question is, maybe.

The goal of hospice and palliative care is to make the patient as comfortable as possible, not trying to cure the patient. So, if a patient is already suffering from multiple symptoms, aches, and pains, is it right for them to go through the unpleasantries of kicking the habit? In most cases, patients who are already addicted to smoking can keep smoking, provided it’s done safely.

Smoking poses several risks that need to be addressed if a patient wants to continue lighting up. The first risk is an oxygen tank, that is commonly given to hospice patients to assist them with breathing. These tanks contain 100% oxygen, which is highly flammable. If a patient smokes while using or around an oxygen tank, they can cause an explosion that can injure themselves or those around them.

The second risk also involves fire. Since hospice patients spend a lot of time in bed, they will likely want to smoke a few cigarettes in bed. If a patient smokes in bed and falls asleep with a lit cigarette, they can catch a blanket or pillow on fire. This could cause serious injury to the patient and possibly damage the home or hospital they’re living in. If a patient wants to smoke in bed, they need to do so under the watchful eye of a caregiver to ensure no accidents happen.

Choosing to smoke while going through end of life care is a personal decision that each patient and family will need to make. Ultimately, smoking should only continue when it will improve the patient’s quality of life and can be done safely. Navigating confusing decisions like this is what we do best at Cura-HPC. If you need help finding a hospice for a loved one, or have questions about how hospice works, please give us a call. 

Dealing with the Loss of a Coworker

Posted on Oct 07, 2017

When coping with a loss, focusing on work can be a great way to get your mind off the grief and start to feel productive again, but this luxury is not afforded when you’re dealing with the loss of a coworker. In this situation, going back to work and sitting in meetings only brings up memories and reminds you of the loss. In times like this, it’s important that everyone in the office band together and act as a support system for each other. To provide this much-needed support, here are a few tips.

Don’t Put Expectations on Others

One quick way to make matters worse is trying to predict or put expectations on how your other coworkers should react to the loss. Just because someone was especially close to the deceased doesn’t mean they will be visibly distraught, and you might be surprised at how hard others who you thought weren’t very close to the deceased take the loss. Everyone will react differently, and there’s no sense placing your own expectations on your coworkers’ reactions.

Give it Time

It’s important for management to understand that the week or two following the death won’t set any productivity records. People will probably need a few days of bereavement and some breaks throughout the day. Bringing in a grief counselor to talk with the staff is also a good idea. Trying to rush the process and get everyone back to 100% productivity right away can prolong the process.

Open the Office to the Family

Family members are often unaware of the various relationships we have at work. They might have heard a name of a few coworkers in passing or maybe even met some coworkers at a work function, but rarely do family members fully understand the role we play at work and how we impact those we work with. Inviting the family to the office to see the deceased’s desk and get to know their coworkers can help everyone grieve together. It can also help the employees understand what their coworker was like outside of the office.

Look for Symptoms Instead of Stages

Posted on Oct 07, 2017

When people think about dealing with the loss of a loved one, most people will consider the five stages of grief at some point. This system was created by a Swiss-American psychiatrist named Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969. In her ground-breaking book, On Death and Dying, the world was first introduced to the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. For almost 50 years, this has been the gold standard for dealing with grief. However, some grief experts are starting to move away from this model.

While the five stages have been incredibly helpful for people experiencing loss, the method has become so widespread that people have started to misuse it. The word “stages” suggests that grief is a linear process with a predictable path. There are certainly common emotions and conditions shared by those dealing with a loss, but that doesn’t mean grief will always take the same path.

Instead of trying to figure out what stage you’re in, just be aware of the symptoms of grief and treat them as they come. Grief will affect every aspect of your life, and it’s normal to experience physical, emotional, and spiritual symptoms. Knowing what these symptoms look like will help you treat them and ultimately get past them.

Physical Symptoms of Grief

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Weight changes
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • Decreased immune system

Emotional Symptoms of Grief

  • Low self-esteem
  • Indecisiveness
  • Negative thoughts
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Thinking you are responsible for the loss
  • Nightmares
  • Paranoia
  • Feeling isolated

Spiritual Symptoms of Grief

  • Questioning your beliefs
  • Being angry at God
  • Questioning your purpose
  • Feeling abandoned

These symptoms could very well follow the traditional five stages, but treating symptoms as they come will likely be more helpful than trying to pinpoint which stage you’re at. Use the five stages as a guide, but don’t feel tied to them. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to get help if you need it. Grief counseling or support groups can be incredibly helpful.

Hospice Care for Stroke Patients

Posted on Sep 28, 2017

Strokes are one of the most common serious medical events for adults in America to experience. In fact, when it comes to American adults, strokes are the leading cause of disability and the 5th leading cause of death.  

When a stroke strikes, the blood supply that normally goes to the brain is cut off and the brain cells that control normal functions are denied the oxygen they need. This can lead to memory and muscle control issues after the stroke.

The complications of a stroke can vary greatly depending on the individual’s past medical history and the severity of the stroke. Some can fully recover from a stroke with just a few visits to the doctor’s office, but some aren’t so lucky. In some cases, a stroke can require hospice care when the patient exhibits the following symptoms.

  • Continuing weight loss
  • Needing help with routine activities
  • Inability to sustain a healthy caloric intake
  • Becoming chair or bed bound
  • Diminished functional abilities

A stroke can cause a huge lifestyle shift for the patient and their primary caregivers. Thankfully, hospice care will provide comprehensive care for stroke patients at no cost to the patient. This includes available 24/7 care from a carefully staffed medical team and the cost of medical supplies like prescription medications and hospital beds.

At Cura-HPC, our staff has extensive experience helping stroke patients and their families. This can be a very trying time with sudden and dramatic changes, but we are ready to guide your family with top-quality medical care and bereavement support. If you have questions about qualifying for hospice care, give Cura-HPC a call.