End of Life Care

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End of Life Care

 
If you or a family member is facing a terminal illness, emotions can be overwhelming. It can sometimes be difficult to know what to do, and who to turn to. Some patients, reluctant to place the burden of caretaking on loved ones, opt to spend their final days in a hospice. But it is often possible for terminally ill patients to remain comfortably at home until the end, as long as the family has the right support in place.
 
When a patient reaches the end of treatment options, the doctor usually refers him/her to a palliative care team. The team may include physicians, nurses, social workers, spiritual advisors, and more. Indispensable to the team are the caregivers, both family members and trained personal support workers (PSWs). These people will provide both practical support and companionship, which is crucial.
 

Selecting a Home Care Agency

 
Agencies provide different types and levels of service, so be sure to do your research. Choose an agency that provides:
  • Choice. Many organizations send a rotating roster of workers. This can be frustrating for patients, and for family members who have to explain the patient’s needs over and over again. The best agencies try to match your family with the perfect PSW. If your family prefers to work with someone who speaks your mother tongue or understands your culture, for example, a good agency will have enough diversity to meet that need. Ask to meet several candidates, and choose a caregiver who is a good fit for your family, and who can relate with the patient. You will be depending on this person during one of the most challenging times any family will face, so it’s important that you feel comfortable with the caregiver.
  • Variety of services. Some agencies send caregivers for companionship only. Others specialize in providing personal services such as bathing, dressing, and grooming. Be sure to find an agency whose workers will provide a range of services, from administering medication to doing laundry, or from driving the client to appointments to playing cards and running errands.
  • Flexibility. Premium agencies understand that your needs may change from week to week. Choose an agency that is open to changing the schedule to fit your needs. You’ll want to find one that offers 24/7 service, and that can provide workers who will support your loved one at home, hospice, or in the hospital.
  • Qualifications. And of course, make sure the agency you choose selects personnel very carefully. They should have completed a PSW certificate course, and have at least a year’s experience. They should be screened, insured, and well-paid.

Accessing Funds for End of Life Care

 
There are various ways in which services can be delivered through the health system, or privately. You may be eligible for funding for a PSW; more information is available on the Health Canada website.
 
A good caregiver can provide care, comfort, and support to the entire family through this most difficult time. 
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