Holistic Care to the Dying and Their Loved Ones
Dan Ayres, President and CEO, Helios Care
What does it mean to have “a good death”? This isn’t a question many of us proactively ask ourselves. In fact, most people don’t really like to talk about endings, let alone dying. As a culture, we are often uncomfortable using the words “dying” or “died,” often substituting phrases like “passed away” or “lost.” So it makes sense that reflecting on what we and our loved ones need during our last days can feel daunting.
The good news is, knowing what it takes to support people who are dying and those who care for them isn’t rocket science. It’s pretty simple, actually, and comes down to this: Taking a holistic, compassionate approach while recognizing that each person’s journey is unique. Fortunately, hospice providers like Helios Care are dedicated to supporting caregivers and patients in a way that aligns with their values and preferences.
So let’s take a closer look at this “good death” concept. Research shows that – for the dying and caregivers alike – holistic care consists of meeting five related needs. The first three center on the person who is dying, and the last two apply equally to their family caregivers.
- Holistic care at end of life starts with making sure people are as comfortable as possible. In other words, the better job we do at managing pain, the easier it is for people and their families to spend quality time together at end of life. Hospice medical and nursing staff specialize in this type of care, no matter the type of illness or condition involved.
- During their final months and weeks, people overwhelmingly want to be in a place that’s meaningful for them. Yet as anyone who’s cared for a dying loved one knows, being at home during this time really does “take a village.” This is where hospice home health aides, social workers and volunteers really shine.
- Whether someone has six months or six days to live, time and again they report the healing value of connection. That’s the third aspect of holistic care: Having active relationships with the people who are most important in one’s life. From help with tasks of daily living, to connecting families with local services, to providing companionship and respite for caregivers, our team takes pride in “meeting people where they are.”
- When it comes to meaning, closure and feelings of acceptance, our chaplains rise to the occasion. Spiritual care at end of life helps people gain gentle clarity about their beliefs and preparedness for dying. For family caregivers, social workers hold space for conversations about anticipatory grief and the challenges of caregiving, and bereavement counselors provide one-on-one counseling and host grief support groups to help folks find their path forward in the face of loss.
- What does all this holistic support add up to? Well, it helps give people the bandwidth to be with one another during what’s arguably one of the most profound periods of being human. All people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, especially when they are dying and grieving. As hospice providers, the entire Helios Care team has a humble understanding of what a privilege it is to care for our community in these ways.
And finally, speaking of supporting the local community, our team will be hosting Caregiver Support Groups periodically. So be on the lookout for details on our website and in local media! We look forward to being there for you.