When there’s anxiety surrounding a loved one’s end-of-life issues, emotions run high and can lead to conflict – which, in turn, can adversely affect the quality of life and care.
“The emotionally-charged atmosphere during advanced illness and near death is rife with opportunity for new conflicts to emerge or old conflicts to resurface,” says JoAnn Reifsnyder, Ph.D., ACHPN, of the Hospice Foundation of America. “Conflict may occur within families or between families and professional caregivers.”
If you’re struggling with the impending loss of a loved one, identifying and mediating such conflicts can be a major challenge. But with help from hospice, you can do it successfully, and offer your loved one – as well as family members and caregivers – a better chance at a peaceful, meaningful experience in the final hours and days.
When a patient is admitted on to hospice, medical-social worker and grief and bereavement support staff services are offered to the patient and family, to facilitate end of life decisions and to help manage the quality of time left. These team members provide support to the entire family, and to the intimate networks of individuals who care for and about one another.
There may be multiple sources of conflict within a family when a loved one reaches the end stages of life. Conflicts may stem from disagreements about advance care planning, finances, inheritances and a host of other touchy subjects. These conflicts are compounded by the fact that family members are often exhausted and emotionally drained from the anxiety of caring for and worrying about the patient.
Conflicts may also arise between family members and professional caregivers. Disagreements about the nature of care, the responsibilities for providing care or the need for pain management often result from family feeling unprepared, or not understanding the illness or the services being provided.
Hospice can help to alleviate these conflicts by providing targeted, evidence-based education – in a compassionate way – to the family members involved in caring for the patient. Hospice staff can help to identify sources of conflict and foster effective negotiation between family members and professional caregivers. They can also identify other sources of stress, such as exhaustion and anxiety, and help family members get the help they need to stay strong.
When conflicts involve finances, inheritances, payment of bills or caring for a loved one’s home during illness, hospice can connect the family with appropriate community resources to help manage any areas of concern. Hospice staff are trained to understand the sensitivity of these matters and to recognize the strain of dealing with them while a loved one is nearing the end stages of life.
Family meetings, facilitated and supported by hospice, are another way to share information, ease tensions and concerns, and open up communication. By resolving conflicts, strengthening healthy coping mechanisms and supporting the emotional needs of family members, hospice can help loved ones become partners in maintaining the best possible quality of life for the patient.