Caring for a very sick person can be difficult. With VNSNY Hospice, you have a team of experts you can rely on. Every team member plays an important role in making sure patients and caregivers have the support and care they need.
The members of your VNSNY Hospice care team work together to see that your loved one’s last months are as comfortable as possible, so they can enjoy the best quality of life possible.
It’s important to know that you (or another family member or friend) will always be the primary caregiver. Your VNSNY Hospice care team will support you, answer your questions, and give you the information you need to feel confident as you care for your loved one. Members of your team will make sure that you and other caregivers know what to do and what to expect.
Our hospice care team members will respect your and your loved one’s wishes and can provide guidance as you make decisions about care. In an emergency, you can always call our 24/7 caregiver help line to speak to a hospice nurse.
Here are the core members of your hospice care team and a description of what each one does.
Your VNSNY Hospice nurse will be your main contact. Your nurse will:
Hospice nurses know that caring for someone nearing the end of life can be overwhelming. Your nurse can answer questions you or your loved one may have. Your nurse will make sure that you have the information you need to provide the best care possible and that you know what to expect as your loved one’s health changes.
Nurses in our hospice program may be nurse practitioners, registered nurses, or licensed practical nurses.
Certified home health aides can help your loved one with personal care, such as bathing, toileting, and dressing. Aides can prepare meals and assist with feeding. They can also keep track of your loved one’s symptoms and, in some cases, check vital signs. Aides cannot give medications, but they can remind your loved one when to take them.
Because home health aides are usually the care team members who spend the most time with your loved one, they play a very important role. For example, the aide may be the first to notice a small change in your loved one that’s a sign of a bigger problem. Your aide will alert your hospice nurse so that your loved one gets prompt attention.
Your VNSNY Hospice social worker assists as you cope with the present and prepare for the future. They can guide you and your loved one in making decisions. Sometimes family members disagree about what is best for the patient. The social worker may be able to show you ways to make it easier to settle these disagreements.
Your social worker is also available to help with practical matters and paperwork. For example, they can answer questions as you fill out insurance forms and draw up advance directives, and they can connect you with useful organizations such as Meals on Wheels.
As a person nears the end of life, they may question their values, beliefs, or faith. They may have unfinished business that they want to take care of, or they may want to explore how to leave a legacy for their loved ones, or want to have meaningful experiences with people they love. A VNSNY spiritual care counselor will listen without judging and will assist your loved one in their search for meaning and hope.
Spiritual care counselors are available to hospice patients and families of all values, beliefs, and heritages. They can also arrange a ritual that honors your personal or spiritual beliefs or your religious or cultural heritage.
You can ask for a visit from a spiritual care counselor at any point while your loved one is in hospice care.
Every VNSNY Hospice care team includes a hospice physician who is board certified in hospice and palliative medicine. Hospice physicians consult with the care team and oversee medical care related to your loved one’s hospice diagnosis. Because your loved one’s personal doctor will continue to be their primary doctor while they are on hospice care, the hospice physician will communicate with your loved one’s personal doctor.
Bereavement counselors help families make sense of painful emotions. After your loved one has passed away, bereavement counselors are available to you and your family for 13 months to help you through the milestones of the first year.
Grief support is available at any time during this 13-month period.
Hospice volunteers make an important contribution to the care that VNSNY Hospice provides to patients and their families. Volunteers can provide companionship by visiting your loved one in person or calling them on the phone. Volunteers may also read to your loved one or watch their favorite TV show with them—or simply listen to them and hold their hand. Some volunteers are able to give massages or bring pets for therapy visits. Volunteers can also help caregivers by updating extended family on a patient’s condition by setting up websites or making phone calls. And if family and friends are unavailable, our specially trained vigil volunteers can sit by the bedside of a dying patient in their final moments.
Your VNSNY Hospice care team will meet regularly to discuss your loved one’s care plan and, if necessary, make changes to it. When hospice patients need additional services, the care team may expand to include other specialists such as the following:
A physical therapist can assess your loved one’s mobility to help them stay safe. Therapists can show you how to help your loved one do simple stretches to reduce stiffness. They can also show you how to avoid hurting yourself or your loved one when you help them out of bed or up from a chair.
An occupational therapist can help your loved one with fine motor skills so they can still do some things on their own, such as brushing their teeth or getting dressed.
Speech-language pathologists specialize in strengthening the muscles of the face, mouth, and neck. This is important for hospice patients, so they can chew and swallow safely and avoid choking.
Diseases like COPD and heart failure often cause severe shortness of breath, so patients enrolled in VNSNY’s COPD Hospice Program or Cardiac Hospice Program often have a respiratory therapist on their care team. But a respiratory therapist may also be called in to assist patients with any hospice illness. They can set up equipment and recommend ways to help your loved one to breathe comfortably. They can also give your loved one tools to help calm the anxiety and panic that breathing difficulties can cause.
People often suffer wounds resulting from their disease or just from being bedbound. With VNSNY Hospice, your loved one has access to specialized advanced practice nurses who are certified in caring for wounds. These nurses are available to consult with your hospice care team or to provide your loved one with bedside care when necessary.
Liaisons in our Hospice Care for Veterans Program are veterans themselves, so they understand how military service, especially in combat, can affect a person. Liaisons listen to each veteran’s story. They can also provide information about certain benefits for veterans and can work directly with the Veterans Administration.
It is normal for a person at the end of life to lose their appetite or to stop enjoying their favorite foods. If you are worried about your loved one’s appetite, a registered dietitian can suggest foods that may be more appealing and easier to chew and swallow.