Holding hands

Taking care of caregivers

Tuesday, August 28, 2018 |

The role of caregiver can take on many forms. From feeding, dressing, grooming, and bathing to grocery shopping, providing transportation, and giving medication, the role is varied, challenging, and time-consuming. When a patient is discharged from one of our hospitals, it’s often up to the patient’s spouse, child, or other relatives or friends to assume a full-time caregiver role.

Bayhealth offers a Palliative Care Program at Bayhealth Hospital, Kent Campus and Bayhealth Milford Memorial. The program places a focus on the health of our patients as well as their caregivers to give them the tools, guidance, and support needed for the road ahead.

Palliative Care explained 

Palliative care is specialized medical care for patients living with a serious illness. The aim is to provide relief of pain, lessen physical and emotional stress, and improve the quality of life for patients and their caregivers. During a patient’s inpatient stay, the Bayhealth Palliative Care team consults with the patient and caregiver to create a tailored plan of care.

Often confused for hospice care, palliative care is appropriate for all stages of any illness and can coincide with curative treatment.

Role of the caregivers 

There are 43 million caregivers nationwide. The support they provide is invaluable. “We value family and caregivers and see them as part of the healthcare team,” says Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner Suzette Flores, DNP, BSW, APRN, NP-C.

The palliative care meetings help the patient and caregiver understand how an illness will progress, the treatment plan, what to expect, and how to make preparations for future needs. They also talk about the patient’s goals and wishes, and help the patient and caregiver tailor a life around those expectations.

Support to caregivers 

Caregivers spend so much time taking care of their loved one, their own needs often go unmet, leading to caregiver burnout. They’re exhausted — physically, emotionally, and mentally — and this can affect the patient’s care.

During palliative care meetings, the staff assesses the willingness and ability of caregivers to fulfill the role. This includes finding resources to help them, answering questions, educating on the patient’s care, and identifying potential stressors.

“What we find is caregivers in palliative care are more capable of navigating effective interventions and experience a sense of comfort through spiritual and psychosocial support within the framework of what we can offer,” Flores said. “If the caregiver feels supported, it ultimately improves the health of the patient.”

Palliative Care is an inpatient program. Referrals into the program come from a hospital-based physician. Visit Bayhealth's Palliative Care page for more information.