Caregiving at the End of Life
The majority of Americans (60–70 %) die in a hospital where the culture is oriented around prolonging life and curing disease. Also, hospitals are costly. Nonetheless, many people want to control the way death happens for themselves and their loved ones. Hospice is growing in its use among the public and among physicians, but only 25 % of Americans who died in 2000 were under hospice care at the time of death. The average length of time patients remain in hospice care is about 3 weeks, too short to experience the array of services available for their care. Caregiving at the end of life can follow one of three trajectories. Some patients die suddenly, others experience a steady decline, and others have a long period of illness, interspersed by crises, one of which proves fatal. The demands on family caregivers differ in duration and intensity. Sometimes a caregiver’s adaptability is taxed to the degree that they become ill and even die before the person whom they are caring for. Caregivers experience both positive and negative effects of caregiving. Preventing caregiver burnout or compassion fatigue are common experiences of caregivers. Signs and symptoms of burnout are offered to minimize burnout. The process of grieving and healing from long-term caregiving takes time.
KeywordsPalliative care Physician’s views and use of hospice Positive effects of caregiving Men as caregivers Caregiving burnout
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