A day in the life of Hospice Caregivers

Staff Writer
Glen Rose Reporter
Trish Reiner

Caregivers, in my book, hold a special place in the world – and in the heart.

Whether it is a nurse, a chaplain, a volunteer, or a family member or close friend who is willing to take the time to care for anyone in need, I firmly believe each one has a special calling. Not everyone has the personality or desire to help those in need, and those who do have my utmost respect.

You may not know of anyone in need of hospice now, but a good guess is that someone you know in your lifetime – maybe even a loved one – will have contact with a hospice caregiver. So, just as many of us have questions about hospice care and what it is, some may also have questions about what hospice caregivers actually do. Let’s take a look!

Who is Responsible for the Care of My Loved One?

The Hospice Nurse: The first person one usually sees when the hospice benefit is elected is a Registered Nurse. This caregiver will admit a patient to hospice care, help the family or patient fill out initial paperwork, look at medications and physician instructions, order any additional care equipment and converse not only with the patient, but with the family as well.

This is the best time for the patient and family to ask questions about how the care process will move forward, what to expect as a patient’s health declines, and be sure the patient’s wishes are noted in all aspects of care. The nurse will also maintain contact directly with the physician overseeing care to ensure all that can be done for pain control and symptom management is being done.

The Social Worker: An important piece in electing hospice service is the utilization of a social worker. A social worker is typically the expert at anything community services and paperwork related.

If a patient or the family is struggling through a Medicaid application, power of attorney paperwork, or would simply like to locate additional services (such as a support group) during a particularly difficult illness, a social worker can help navigate through all of this with great care and efficiency. Most social workers have been in the field for a long time, and know immediately which resources are best for a particular need.

The Chaplain: When a patient elects to utilize the chaplain service under the hospice benefit, the chaplain will make appointments at regular intervals with the patient and the family, depending upon the patient’s wishes.

Some families who desire a spiritual connection during hospice service may not be connected to a particular local church, and this service is often times a blessing for not only the patient, but the family as well. In addition, a chaplain often times helps the family through unresolved issues and can help families work through the illness of their loved one together or individually.

Everyone deals with crisis in unique ways, and a chaplain recognizes those differences. Hospice chaplains are very diverse in their training, and are able to serve the needs of patients from all religious backgrounds. This is an elected service, and not mandatory. If a patient does not wish to see a chaplain it is not required, but always available should a patient decide to request the service later on during care.

The Nurse Aide: A nurse aide is elemental in helping those patients with care that family members – for example, an older spouse – may not be able to handle, such as turning, bathing or showering, and a variety of other activities needed to ensure a patient is getting the best possible care and quality of life.

The Volunteer: If a patient has very little family involved, or is simply very social in personality, a volunteer can be requested. These folks donate their time to reading, visiting, singing, or simply being with a hospice patient.

The most important thing to remember is that when a patient self elects or a family elects hospice service for a loved one, the goal is to give the patient the best quality of life possible during a very difficult time. You’ve heard me say it before – Hospice is about offering quality of life for someone with a life limiting illness. Services through the hospice benefit can be tailored to the specific needs of every patient, depending upon the illness and the desires of the patient.

Trish Reiner is the Community Liaison for Interim HealthCare and has worked in healthcare for more than seven years. Ms. Reiner also co-founded the support group RECAP (Resources and Education for Caregivers of Aging Parents). If you have further questions about topics covered, please contact her at, or call 817-573-7474.