How can we persuade my mother, who's caring for my dying father, to bring in hospice help?

7 answers | Last updated: Dec 06, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother is caring for my father, who's failing fast. My brother and I want to bring in hospice care, but my mother gets angry whenever we suggest it and accuses us of giving up on Dad. The doctor has made it clear that Dad is dying, yet my mother seems to believe that hospice is going to somehow speed up the process. Any suggestions?

Expert Answers

Wendy Wank is a palliative care nurse practitioner at Hospice by the Bay, in Larkspur, California.

Many people who've never had experience with hospice have misconceptions about what it means. Like your mother, many people believe that involving hospice in a patient's care amounts to a death sentence or that their loved one will die more quickly or won't be properly cared for.

Hospice care does not accelerate the dying process. In fact, some studies show that people who receive hospice care tend to live longer than those who remain in the hospital.
Nor does hospice care mean that your father will simply be left to die. He'll be well cared for at home or another comfortable setting and given medication to relieve pain and other symptoms. The hospice will also provide your father and mother and the rest of your family with spiritual and emotional support, as well as practical help with financial issues and other details.

The hospice approach to death and dying is based on the belief that a dying person will be more comfortable outside of a hospital setting, where he can die in comfort and peace, with those he loves around him.

Of course, your mother's resistance to hospice care is likely a form of denial. She wants to avoid the reality of your father's impending death for as long as she can. This type of wishful thinking is common. Hospice representatives will help your mother come to terms with your father's death and provide bereavement counseling after it occurs.

Perhaps your father's physician could talk to your mother about what hospice care involves. Or, if your mother is receptive, you could arrange for a hospice nurse or representative to sit down with your mother and tell her what to expect.

It might be particularly helpful if someone your mother trusts who has used hospice services could tell your mother about the experience. Most people who turn to hospice during the death of a loved one are eternally grateful for the support it provides.

Community Answers

I have been there answered...

I am currently caring for my husband’s grandmother in our home.  I have 2o plus years as a nurse and caregiver in the geriatric and hospice fields.   I have had to advocate hospice care for many . This is not easy expecially with a generation of people who have survived so many things.  I honestly believe the best way to do this is lovingly.  Take your mom to an area where she is comfortable.  This area needs to be far enough away from your dad that she will be certian he will not hear the convesation.  It seems that many believe that a paitent hearing the word "dying" gives up.  It can also be hard to loose your spose because you are next in line.

When you have found such an area.  Let her know some of the things you appreciate about your dad, include in these things beliefs your father shared you, things that both your parents provided.  Tell your mom how much you are going to miss your dad, and how much you love him.  If you find these things to be true.  If not just skip to the next step.  Which is factual, and often goes something like this:

"Mom, dad hasn't wanted to eat for along time now."

"I know I was thinking I would make him ____,it was always his favorite, maybe he would like that"

"Mom in order to live the body needs food, if you don't feed the body it will die." 

"That is why he needs to eat,  I just cann't find anything he wants to eat.  I keep getting him his favorites, but he takes one bite and he is done.  I don't know what to do."

"Mom dad is trying but he is tiered,  I know your trying too, look you are exahausted.  Mom I wish you would let us get some help.  So you could be dads wife not his nurse.  He needs you to be his wife now." 

This often ends with the spouse crying sense they have often forgot they are a wife, or husband  they have struggled so long and labored so hard to end up where they never wanted to go.  They more times then not feel as though they failed, and /or feel betrayed by the spouse for failing to respond to their care.  But the very sad truth is that people die, everyday,  people who tryed eveything, people who do nothing, people with a positive attitude, and ones without.  They die and the best we can do for them is be there hold their hand meet them where they need to go, and treat them with compasion.  Ask your mom if she believes her husband would want to be the one  wearing her out or the one hold her hand.  Cry with your mom and cry with your brother, love eachother.  This is a raw emotional time respect what each of you need and be your fathers daughter.  With deep sympathy,




Lyndag answered...

I am currently caring for my mother who is on hospice, and had it not been for hospice and my taking care of her her doctor said she wouldn't have made it this long. Our hospice nurse is amazing, she is so helpful and compassionate. She always listens to my mom, even though she may ask the same things over and over again as she continues to progress with copd and emphysema. I had the same thoughts when they said "hospice" but it's really not what everyone makes it seem to be, and you can get better and go off hospice.

Timdalland answered...

Have your mom instead of trying to feed and care for his needs ,bring him out into the living room area and let him be surrouned by all that love him,if he is alert enough he well say if he's hungry or if his bed needs changed ,but to realize if his last days are near let him be in or around the comfort of family,or friends the dieing ive learned are very much still aware of whats going on around them even tho they lay without saying much,your mom i know loves your dad very very much,too want the best for him and hospice helps with alot of that in its self they also care and respect what your mom is going thru so please ask her too see the end is something far greater then she can ever feel until its time soo sure allow her to the most if thats her will,and help her in any of support she can get,and whisper to your dad how much he's loved by all and that its alright to to go now if he's ready

Gemend answered...

My husband has Huntington's and this is how I introduced hospice care to him:

Honey, I would like for you to get the best care possible so I want to call in hospice. Hospice means you will get lots of extra care, such as extra showers, massage, book readings, companionship from other people and many more things. This is a free extra for you because you qualify with Huntingtons. However, once you are better, hospice care will stop.

That seemed to work for him. I emphasized the fact that Hospice doesn't mean you are dying, it means more comfort and care. Incidently, he has been on and off from hospice for the last year or so. Still hanging on...

In regards to your mother: hospice care will be beneficial for her as well. She will be able to do something for herself while hospice is helping your dad.

3rd time caretaker answered...

My husband was reluctant to start hospice for his mother, I wished we had started months earlier, she would have not suffered so long and we would have had the professional care services they provide available to us earlier. The visiting nurse, CNA and constant access to hospice , has made a difficult time better, It has lifted a financial, physical and emotional burden. Caretaking can kill the caretaker, help and contact with the outside world is critical for the caretakers health and well being, Hospice is just as much for caretakers as patients. Tell your Mom not accepting hospice maybe more selfish than she realizes. Your father could be suffering needlessly, hospice can make things better for she and him.

A fellow caregiver answered...

I took care of my husband for 2yrs before he died. It was a hard row to hoe by myself and I physically aged 10yrs in those 2. I was exhausted and frustrated from taking care of a man who actually prided himself on being stubborn and independent, making my job that much more difficult. When hospice finally stepped in, it was a God send. Instead of the myriad of doctor appointments that wore the both of us out; hospice came to the house to monitor his condition. They answered all my questions and let me know of changes in his condition that I didn't always notice being exhausted as well as too close to the situation; such as when his eyes turned yellow.

Hospice also managed his medications, telling me how much to up his morphine to make him more comfortable, ordering refills and having them delivered to the door 24hrs later so that I never again had to make that 2am emergency run to the 24hr pharmacy.

These wonderful angels did so much more than I have space here to write about and took a huge load off my shoulders for which I will be eternally grateful. They respected my husband's (and my) wishes and were kind and gentle.

Please tell your mother that a hospice nurse is there every bit for her emotional support, as as they are for your father's health care. She will be there to answer all your mother's questions, help HER to make your father comfortable and pain free, and will order equipment ...a walker, commode, hospital bed, etc... as your father's needs change. Please tell her that hospice doesn't mean you've given up; it means that you now have the emotional and medical help you need and deserve.

Shortly before my husband died, he asked his hospice nurse if she'd ever had to say "goodbye" to a patient, to which she puddled up and answered yes. These people have a difficult job and truly care about their patients; and again I say are angels.