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Caregiver Training Blog

Expert Interview Series: Dale Farrow of CommunityHospice.com About Caring For The Caregiver

CaregiverDale Farrow is the Manager of Community Programs at Community Hospice of Northeast Florida in Jacksonville. He has more than 22 years in the health care industry, with deep expertise in home health care, home respiratory, hospice and caregiving. We sat down with Dale to pick his brain about the caregiver's role in hospice care, and learn about resources that can help these caregivers in their time of need.

How does Community Hospice help its clients?

Community Hospice of Northeast Florida offers a number of programs to help our patients and their caregivers live better with advanced illness, as well as people in our community who may not be connected to our hospice program. As a community-based, community-focused provider, it's important that we reach out to everyone in our community who needs our support, no matter what their circumstances.

We offer interdisciplinary hospice care in the home or any acute-care setting, including our own homelike inpatient centers. We also provide palliative care; advance care planning services through our Honoring Choices® Florida initiative; pediatric palliative and hospice care through our award-winning Community PedsCare® program; a broad variety of grief and bereavement support groups, workshops, and Camp Healing Powers® grief camp for kids; and specialized education and outreach to military veterans and family caregivers.

Given that Florida is known as a popular retirement destination, how does that impact your organization differently than hospice providers in other areas of the country?

Many of our patients may choose to "winter" here in our mild climate or relocate to the First Coast year-round. Still others may have traveled to our area to get care from our world-class medical centers, such as Mayo Clinic, M.D. Anderson, Baptist Health, St. Vincent's HealthCare, or University of Florida Health. When our patients are away from their bases of support, it's important for us to be there for these caregivers, no matter where they live. Our psychosocial staff ensures that family members are kept informed about their loved one's condition.

Are the needs of caregivers of hospice patients different from those of caregivers of patients who are simply ill or disabled?

Most caregivers have similar needs, such as maintaining their own identity and tending to their own health and wellness while helping their loved one live as normal a life as possible. People who care for loved ones in hospice care may experience additional burdens, such as anticipatory grief or the emotional strain of making increasingly difficult decisions on behalf of their loved one near the end of life.

In any caregiving situation, we attempt to first help caregivers self-identify themselves as caregivers, then give them education and support to make sure they have the tools and the will to care for themselves and their loved one. The alternative is to fall prey to the statistic that many caregivers' lives end before their loved ones pass away due to self-neglect.

Does your organization help caregivers of loved ones if the patients don't require hospice care yet?

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter once said, "There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need a caregiver." Recognizing that fact, Community Hospice devotes significant resources to helping people in our community become strong, educated and empowered caregivers. Becoming a caregiver usually happens in an instant, so the more you can do to prepare and educate yourself before that happens, the better.

In 2008, we launched the Caregiver Coalition of Northeast Florida with five fellow community-based nonprofit organizations to mobilize resources and provide caregivers a one-stop destination for help. Our mission is to raise awareness, increase support and focus community resources on the needs and value of caregivers in this community. We fulfill our mission through a variety of programs, all free to caregivers. They include regular "Caring for the Caregiver" conferences; a daylong Caregiver Expo with national speakers, exhibitors, and pampering services; a quarterly newsletter; a caregiver-focused website with online resources and a calendar of caregiving events; and a telephone support line for caregivers in crisis to find advice and reassurance.

Is it common for caregivers to be resistant to the idea of calling a hospice provider as the death of their loved one approaches?

The "H-word" is a scary word for most people. It is important to educate the caregiver by peeling away the myths about the services and benefits quality hospice organizations can provide to both caregivers and their loved ones in need. Our care and support help ease the physical and emotional strain for caregivers and relieve loved ones' suffering so they can share more quality time together and maintain their dignity near the end of life. That's an important message to get across to caregivers so they can find peace in their decision to request hospice care.

If a caregiver said to you, "I need a break from all of my duties and responsibilities, but I would feel guilty if I left my loved one alone," how would you respond?

Guilt is a common emotion felt by caregivers. But to be the best at caregiving, they have to take a break from time to time to focus on what brings them joy and fulfillment. Programs that offer respite care so caregivers can find that "time off" are critical to their health and improve the quality of care they provide for their loved ones. Respite care is one of our core hospice services, and we also offer it at no cost at our caregiver conferences so people who need to be there can join us.

Are there any skills or pieces of knowledge that caregivers of hospice patients need to know - but frequently don't know about?

As the caregiver to a hospice patient, you are never alone. It's important to understand the broad range of support services hospice organizations offer and to take advantage of them. The interdisciplinary team is ready to help with physical, social, and spiritual issues at any time, day or night. Ask questions and find the help you and your loved ones deserve.

Do you help the caregivers of hospice patients after their loved ones have passed away?

As a community-based, community-focused provider, Community Hospice not only supports caregivers of patients in our hospice program, but also anyone who has experienced a loss in our community, no matter what the circumstances. Our licensed grief and bereavement counselors are available to anyone who needs help. For caregivers who experience a loss of someone in our program, we offer up to 13 months of bereavement care, including support groups, workshops, a grief camp for kids, and other services to help people cope with grief reactions and restore a sense of hope.

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