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Caregivers that Provide End of Life Care Need Support

  • Synopsis: Published: 2008-12-27 (Revised/Updated 2010-06-25) - The daily demands of caregiving for someone nearing the end of life can be emotionally and physically draining for caregivers - Carol Howland.

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The daily demands of caregiving for a loved one who is nearing the end of their life can be emotionally and physically draining.

The Hospice Foundation of America estimates that almost half a million people, 68 percent being age 65 or older, received hospice care in 2006. For most, that care involved a family caregiver.

Many family caregivers must deal with not only the time demands and additional responsibilities, but also the emotional needs of their loved one and family.

According to the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA), more than one quarter (26.6 percent) of the adult population has provided care for a chronically ill, disabled or aging family member or friend during the past year. Based on current census data, that translates into more than 50 million people.

The Juggling Act

Recent medical research indicates the stress associated with caregiving can lead to a weakened immune system and in some cases take years off the caregiver's life. Those risks increase when they have to manage caregiving responsibilities while also working or raising a family.

Life can be very stressful for an individual juggling the demands of a job and being a caregiver. Advancing within a career can often be put on hold since completing tasks at work can interfere with caregiving responsibilities.

In many cases, employers will work with the caregiver's changing schedule. Taking time to sit down with a supervisor to explain the situation can be a very good first step to ensuring work commitments are handled. Keeping an employer aware of the situation prevents misinterpretation and promotes better understanding.

Below are a few ideas for the caregiver to keep in mind prior to meeting with their supervisor.

If others offer to assist with some of their caregiving responsibilities, assign them specific tasks.

If there is another position available at work that might make the responsibilities easier, ask to move into that job.

Find out if part time work is an available option and see if it would fit needs at home and fulfill work obligations.

Look into telecommuting to meet home and work responsibilities.

Temporary leave from work may help the situation and allow the caregiver to spend more time at home during their loved one's final days.

View the Family Medical Leave Act, and if applicable discuss this benefit with the employer. Under law, covered employers must grant eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition. For more information regarding the FMLA, visit the U.S. Department of Labor's website.

How to Find Respite

Caregiving can often be a 24-hour responsibility, particularly when providing hospice care. There is a risk of emotional burnout and a decline in health for family caregivers who do not take a much needed break. For many, respite care is the best solution.

Respite care provides temporary relief to the primary caregiver. For many, the best solution for temporary care is through the hiring of an outside resource. Companies like Comfort Keepers®, an in-home care provider, offer a range of assistance with a mix of daily living assistance, personal care and homemaking services.

For the nearly 60 percent of family caregivers who are providing care while also working full-time, companies like Comfort Keepers can offer respite. Respite care is a natural extension of Comfort Keepers existing in-home care business. An average of 12 percent of family caregivers have left there jobs as a result of caregiving responsibilities. We'd like to think the services we offer can positively impact the lives of these caregivers.

Additional Support

There are simple ways that others can help family caregivers. The following tips allow non-caregivers to support their family's provider. This list includes realistic examples of how anyone can offer assistance to family caregivers:

1. Call and ask how the caregiver is doing. Don't offer advice, just listen. Being able to vocalize the stress and grief they are experiencing can be a tremendous relief.

2. Offer assistance. Family caregivers often feel like there is never enough time in the day to get the basics done. Offer to walk the dog, mow the yard, pick up groceries or make dinner to allow them to spend more quality time with their loved one.

3. Send a note. A cheerful note or card out of the blue can help brighten their day.

4. Offer the gift of respite. If the caregiver can leave their loved one alone for a few hours, invite them out to dinner, the movies, or for a cup of coffee. Volunteer to stay with the care recipient for a few hours to allow the family caregiver to take a break, or recommend they research an agency with trained caregivers.

End of Life Services

There are several resources for finding compassionate end of life care and respite for family caregivers. The following online resources may answer many questions in the search for the best possible solution:

www.hospicefoundation.org - The Hospice Foundation of America offers an informative article that explores myths about death and pain, and offers insights about grief.

www.cms.hhs.gov - The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services provides information about coverage, eligibility and benefits for hospice reimbursement through Medicaid.

www.nahc.org National Association for Home Care and Hospice has an extensive web directory that allows an individual to search for home care and hospice by location, payment types, services offered, and more.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization web site provides information on choosing a hospice, Medicare and Medicaid and basic hospice facts.

About Comfort Keepers in Pinellas County Florida

Reference: Carol S. Howland, R. N. is the owner of Comfort Keepers in North Pinellas County Florida. Her Comfort Keepers office provides services to Clearwater, Palm Harbor, Oldsmar, and Tarpon Springs from this location. Comfort Keeprs is a Private Duty Home Care Agency which offers a range of assistance with a mix of daily living assistance, personal care and homemaking services. Carol Howland additionally owns and operates Comfort Staffing which is a Home Health Agency providing skilled nursing.



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