Finding A Balance: Self-Care For the Hospice Professionals
By Merry Lee, RN
As an individual attracted to hospice you need to have a special capacity to care those they serve. Your job as a hospice worker is not only make the person who is dying last days more pleasant, but to also help the family through their morning of their loved one.
Because of this unique environment, setting boundaries is often difficult to establish when dealing with special requests from a patient or members of the patient’s family. As hospice workers, you are often confronted with the burden of sacrificing your own time and well-being for those you serve. It is that compassion that makes for a good hospice worker; the ability to truly care for your patients. This is also the thing that can serve as a major source of stress in your lives.
Since compassionate care-giving is an important part of hospice work, you have a distinct and unique challenge that many other health-care workers deal with on a much smaller scale; that is having to deal with the loss of your patients on a regular basis. Unlike other health-care workers whose patients often get better, all hospice patients die.
In the midst of intimate and intense caregiving, you may forget to take care of your self. In order to continue doing this remarkable work, taking care of your self is essential. It is not enough to just take vacations. It is vital to incorporate ways to reduce stress.
As a hospice worker, you will continually meet new patients, with the knowledge that a farewell will soon follow. You need to find ways accept the goodbyes.
In hospice it is important to recognize and deal with your own grief. As a hospice worker, you often become very close to the patient’s family. You will know many of the fears that the patient and their family members have never dealt with before. So, just as the family members need to find ways to mourn, so do the hospice workers who deal with patient’s deaths on a regular basis, otherwise, they own emotional well-being can be compromised over time.
Whether you relieve your stress and feelings over patient’s passing through sculpture, painting, drawing, writing, or music. It is important to find something that works for you. Hiking out in nature may work for one person, but another will need something else; be it cooking, long quiet drives, or going to a health spa for a few hours. You need to find whatever works for you, and then use those releases on a regular basis.
Find ways to pamper yourself. As a hospice worker you give to others all day, and then many of you go home and give to your family members. This is all fine and good, but you still need to find time to give something to yourself. Take an hour for long warm bath with candles and soft music, or a massage, or a walk along a beach, or beautiful mountain path.
It is also important to have your own support system. Do you have an understanding spouse? If not do you a close friend that you can lean on when you are having a particularly hard day? It is important to have someone who can help relieve the stress when things get hard—because they occasionally will get hard.
When discussing issues with a spouse or friend, always remember HIPAA Rules. Never discuss a patient by name or reveal any information about any patient. Simply discuss your personal feelings about the day, “it was a very hard day at work, and I just need you to be there while I work through my feelings.”
A spouse, friend, or even a therapist can be of great help, and they never need to know anything about your patients. When talking to them, it should just be how your feel, and how they can help you.
It is important for you as hospice workers to have friends outside of work. What happens all too often when colleagues get together, they end up talking primarily about work. It is important to have people in your life that can discuss subjects other than hospice. This provides opportunities to share experiences and feelings unrelated to the stressors at work.
When doing things with friends from work, try to find things to do that are totally unrelated to work. Find hobbies that you may both enjoy or want to pursue.
There is also the possibility of joining a health spa together. These alternative settings provide opportunities to share common interests aside from work.
In summary, maintaining good physical and mental health is not only a gift to you, but will be a gift to your patients and their families. As they go through this very hard time in their lives, they need to find way to manage their own stress during their most trying times. By effectively handling your own stress management, you will become a better caregiver to one and all.