Supporting Hospice Caregivers

by | Feb 7, 2024 | Community

With a background in hospice, I experienced firsthand the challenges of the hospice team and the emotional investment and that giving our agency’s in-home Care Partners this training was essential. Service hours often increase when a loved one declines and requires more care, therefore Care Partners (Caregivers) spend 20-30 hours a week or more providing in-home care for the Client and supporting the family as well. Their emotional and physical investment is high and for long durations, therefore meaningful connection with Care Team Partner support is a must.


Barbara Karnes makes several good points about Supporting Hospice Caregivers. Training comes from each individual hospice. We too respect and honor hospice Caregivers, RNs, Social Workers and the team that diligently care for individuals who are dying.


We prepare Care Partners with hospice home care training workshops using Barbara Karnes’ resources. While all Care Partners participate in the training they self-select in or out of serving hospice Clients.


While this is a hallowed time to enter an individual’s last days of their life, it can also be met with challenges from the families’ expression of their own grief.  Having gifted Care Partners to come along side with compassion, see through what is being said or implied, and know that each person expresses their grief differently helps them not to take challenges personally but stay focused on the Client’s needs and family support.


Care Partners attend Care Support Meetings after a Client has passed. This is a healing and comforting time of celebrating the Client with sharing stories, experiences, personal challenges and successes. There are tears (healthy part of healing – no apology accepted), laughter and a release as we all learn more about the Client from each other and about ourselves.


Having regular check-in phone calls and Care Partner reports after each shift when the Client is actively dying gives opportunity for important conversations and a release from the load of responsibility and emotion from caring for a Client and supporting the family. Verbalizing experiences from the day and sharing helpful insights for other Care Partners creates team support. As one Care Partner recently stated, “We seem like one big family.”


After the passing of a recent Client, I visited with the husband who was passionate about the love of his life and desired to provide the best care for his wife of 70 years.  He commented that he was hard on me and admitted to being difficult to work with for our Care Partners (Caregivers).  I let him know that we understood that he was a “man on a mission” to make sure his wife was well cared for.  “I saw your heart, I said.”  He quickly put his hand over his heart and said, “You saw my heart?”  “Yes, I said, you inspired us all with your love for your wife.” Tears welled in his eyes and then he broke out into a smile.  It is important to be seen as well as heard.


Many families acknowledge our Teams’ contribution to the care and support given.  They express their appreciation and in turn offer support to our Care Partners as they serve.  Many families invite our Care Team to attend the memorial or celebration of life for their loved one.  This is an honor.  We encourage our Care Team to attend and make special arrangements for scheduling to accommodate these events.  Celebrating an special individual’s life is an important part of healthy healing.  Families and Care Team Partners often keep those connections due to the special bond in celebrating those we love.


The last chapter is a significant one and we are honored to be a part of an individual’s journey and walk with their family.  A passionate Care Team devoted to helping during the “Last Act of Living” (as Barbara calls it) is a special giftedness that a Care Partner possesses.

Let’s all contribute to taking care of hospice support teams!

Karen Koudelka


About Karen Koudelka

Owner and Administrator of Virginia Home Care Partners

Her connection with seniors began at an early age. “The elderly are my kind of people.” Karen has fourteen years of professional experience in both hospice and home care, she is devoted to her mission to Love people, Journey together and Make a difference. Partnership of excellence is her pursuit and joy.

Karen is a Positive Approach to Care Dementia Certified Independent Trainer.
Walking with her father through his journey with dementia inspired her to positively impact the lives of individuals living with dementia and their families.