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An essential aspect of being a hospice care provider is talking about age with the elderly, especially with topics that concern them most, like age, family, etc.

A strong and healthy relationship with the elderly is crucial for a hospice care provider to offer the best quality care they can–and the most optimal is through meaningful conversation. Talking about age with the elderly is also essential in forging a bond between caregiver and patient.

Hospice care is reserved for end-of-life care of terminally ill or elderly patients.  Hospice workers have been  dealing with immense pressure lately due to pandemic residual issues.  Hospice workers are trained to engage their patients in conversation is vital for their continued mental and emotional well-being during the uncertain, stressful stages of hospice care.

The human mind is nourished by social relationships and interactions.  A decline in either is detrimental and may lead to long-term psychological issues. This is especially for the elderly, who are already vulnerable to mental decline if they are in a hospice setting.

Hospice care providers must adopt specific strategies when conversing with their charges to establish a proper rapport with them. A heavy burden that weighs on hospice patients’ minds is their illness, age and the eventual loss of life.  Hospice patients need caregivers who are providers of comfort in the times when these thought occupy their minds. 

Time is a tricky subject for those who think they have less of it, and, as caregivers, it is imperative to engage in the matter carefully and deliberately. Here are some general ideas on how to talk to the elderly and the terminally ill about any topic:

  1. Lessen Distractions: Before beginning conversations with your patients, it is essential to provide a space that is most conducive to communication; that means making sure ambient noise is kept to a minimum, privacy is ensured, and the patient is
  2. Have Patience: Talking to someone in a vastly different mental mindset is challenging. Speech may be halting and thoughts scattered, but this should not dissuade the caregiver from being proactive and understanding. The key to any successful conversation with someone with a terminal illness or facing end-of life is patience.
  3. Engage Fully: Be an active participant in the conversation. Ask questions, make, provide acknowledgment, be compassionate, smile, and laugh. It is imperative that both parties are fully and genuinely engaged, especially in a conversation that is ostensibly about something serious. It is important to listen, even if the subject is an unknown topic, be engaged.
  4. Be Frank: The patient may become angry or agitated.  It is important to be frank but do not become argumentative. Caregivers should not be condescending or refuse to be forthcoming with an opinion.  A caregiver does not want to be deemed apathetic or aloof by a patient in hospice care.   If it seems as if the patient is talking only to vent, then it is preferable to keep your thoughts to yourself, but if they genuinely want counsel or another point of view, it is a moral to provide it.

Now that you’re ready to converse with your patient, here are some ideas on how to engage with the topic of aging and, in turn, the issue of death:

Discussing Age and Death

It is no surprise that the older one gets, the more the thought of their demise takes up space in their mind. As time passes, the more open they become to discussing these matters, especially their wishes for the future of their loved ones and themselves. A competent caregiver is, foremost, an empathetic individual, willing to lend an ear whenever and wherever. You can alleviate their concerns and worries by being willing to listen to them and be frank when responding to their questions or asking for your thoughts on the topics.  death and other matters.

Hospice caregivers and workers are trained to participate in conversations of aging and death. Training suggests these topics are better held at the earliest stages of the patient-caregiver relationship. If the patient is terminally ill, they are already at that point in their life where a conversation is extremely important to their continued well-being. Something to talk about when talking about death and dying might be: 

  • The patient’s views on death;
  • Their regrets and treasured moments; 
  • Their wishes for the future; and
  • Their end-of-life concerns.

Hospice staff are trained to have such a conversation with all the patients in a facility or at the patient’s home.  These conversations also include family members to help them prepare for the death.  It is critical that hospice caregivers provide comfort to not only patients but family members to ease concerns about how everyone contends with the stress of these trying times.

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