Grand Rapids:

Five Ways to Support Loved Ones In Hospice

Did you know that hospice care didn’t receive official recognition until 1978? President Carter designated November as National Hospice & Palliative Care Month to honor caregivers offering end-of-life services. This acknowledgment has led to a growing number of individuals seeking hospice care for comfort and compassionate support during their final days. Today, millions of Americans benefit from hospice care annually. In this blog, we highlight the key differences between hospice and palliative care and five ways you can support a loved one in hospice.

What is Hospice Care?

Hospice care provides compassionate end-of-life care for patients with life-limiting, incurable diseases or nearing the end of life from natural causes. The primary focus of hospice is to meet patients where they are at, provide comfort, and maintain a high quality of life. This type of care does not prioritize treatment to cure patients. Instead, it emphasizes living out any time left with dignity and as pain-free as possible. A hospice care plan can include palliative care, respite care, home care, inpatient care, bereavement support resources, and religious support if applicable. 

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is similar to hospice care, with a few key differences. Unlike hospice care, palliative care can be provided at any stage of a serious illness. This type of care is meant to help individuals in active treatment cope with side effects, including pain relief, nausea, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. While palliative care’s primary function is symptom management and pain relief, providers can also refer patients to other specialists to offer individualized support and future care planning.

Five Ways to Support Loved Ones In Hospice

  1. Be present.

    At the end of life, human interaction is vital. It helps patients maintain a sense of normalcy during a likely scary time.

  2. Animal Therapy.

    If your hospice patient is an animal lover, consider bringing over your dog or cat for a visit. Pets help improve mental health by prompting the body to release serotonin and oxytocin hormones. These hormones allow the body to relax and destress, which can be extremely helpful during most people’s challenges at the end of life.

  3. Celebrate big and little wins.

    Make sure to continue celebrating big wins such as birthdays and holidays (bring on the decorations!) as well as daily little wins. A little win could look like having enough strength to sit outside for an hour or could be enjoying a small treat.

  4. Help with any daily needs.

    Daily needs could include preparing small meals, assisting with bathing and grooming, picking out an outfit for the day, or arranging for any medical care needs.

  5. Actively listen.

    The best support you can offer is sometimes just listening. Listen to their frustrations. Their reflections. Their stories of the past or hopes for their family’s future. Even an hour of conversation can change someone’s day for the better in unimaginable ways. 



Facing the end-of-life stage with a family member or friend is never easy and always, in some way, heartbreaking. Making space for this grief while supporting your loved one is okay. Be gentle with yourself today.