You don’t have to be a hospice professional to be a hospice caregiver


by Grace Blanchard, RN, CHPN


A colleague of mine at the St. Vincent Heart Center passed along a wonderful article she’d read in the Indianapolis Star. ( The article describes a program where prisoners have been trained to care for fellow inmates at end of life. It’s a really moving story that perfectly illustrates the gifts we receive when we care for the dying.

The article also reminded me of families who tell me they can’t care for their loved ones because they have no medical training. It’s true that hospice providers are professionals who are trained to manage symptoms at the end of life. Our team includes doctors, nurses, social workers and chaplains. But we aren’t the only caregivers who relieve suffering during the dying process.

Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, spouses, and friends perform day-to-day care for patients at home. They cook meals, clean apartments, and dispense medicines. They turn, feed, and bathe patients who are bedbound. And because not all caregivers are comfortable performing hands-on care, many perform dozens of small, yet meaningful tasks that bring comfort, such as running errands, reading the newspaper, or simply providing company for a lonely patient.

Caregivers don’t have to be family, or even close friends. For example, I recently saw a patient at his home. His wife, who was his primary caregiver, shared that she didn’t have the energy to mow their extensive lawn. As I was leaving, the man who lived next door stopped by to ask if there was anything he could do for the patient. Within minutes, he had his John Deere fired up and was cheerfully giving of himself to help his neighbor.

Caring for the dying is a sacred experience, whether that care involves changing a patient’s bed or baking a casserole for an exhausted spouse. One of the most important things we do in hospice is to support the caregivers and encourage them as they share this sacred journey with their loved ones.


About the author

I am passionate about sharing senior citizen news and resources discovered from both my profession and personal journey.

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