What happens when a hospice professional becomes a family caregiver?

Hospice employees — whether a nurse, aide, or spiritual care coordinator — are accustomed to walking through the dying process with terminally ill patients and their families. But when it’s your own loved one, the importance of compassionate hospice care is amplified. To help alleviate their pain and provide a “good death,” caregivers rely on workers to guide them with compassion and respect.

Assisting a family through a loved one’s final weeks is often an intimate process, whether at home or in a nursing facility. Hospice employees need to exhibit gentleness, patience, organization, and good listening and communication skills. 

Read one Heart to Heart Hospice employee’s experience as a family caregiver and his gratitude for a hospice team to rely on during his mother’s final weeks of life.

A Chaplain’s Story

Rollie Burr has served as a Chaplain/Bereavement Coordinator with Heart to Heart Hospice in Texas for more than a decade. He’s walked alongside dozens of families, providing spiritual care and grief guidance as they say good-bye to their loved ones.

When his own mother needed hospice care in her final months, he knew who to call. “It was a huge relief to have the Heart to Heart team caring for my mother,” said Rollie. Though he knew all of the levels of care a hospice company provides, he truly appreciated how each care team member contributed support during those final weeks.

“The first few days after being admitted are very stressful, and getting visits from all of the disciplines can be overwhelming,” said Rollie. Even as a seasoned hospice employee, he needed compassionate, professional staff to navigate each step. The hospice admissions nurse helped him understand the care team’s roles and who to call when help was needed.

Rollie said transitions were often stressful, like when there was a decline in his mother’s condition, medication changes, or different levels of care required. “This is when the team approach is really helpful,” he said, noting that all of the disciplines worked together providing well-rounded care, from medical to spiritual to emotional.

He personally experienced the fact that hospice isn’t a linear experience. Heart to Heart helps families know what to expect in the dying process via staff expertise and through its Patient and Family Handbook resource.

As with many families, Rollie is grateful he was able to care for his mother in her final months. Much of his job as a chaplain is listening and providing spiritual support. He said his personal experience serving as a caregiver will make him a better chaplain. “I now really know and feel what families are going through,” said Rollie. “It will allow me to feel their pain and hurt in a more personal way as I minister to them.”

Rollie said that he learned how vital each part of the hospice team is for both patients and caregivers. The burden is willingly shared by compassionate hospice workers who provide dignity and guidance during this emotional time for families.

Read more about a chaplain’s role in hospice care and the variety of hospice services provided by Heart to Heart Hospice. If you live in Texas, Michigan, or Indiana, see if Heart to Heart Hospice is available in your area to assist you with your hospice care needs.