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Weekly Tips & Insights

Understanding the Different Roles of Support When a Patient Enters Hospice Care

Updated: Nov 13, 2020

Entering hospice care can be quite the role reversal for families who may have previously taken a back seat in their loved one’s care to let the professionals lead. Once a patient has been discharged from the hospital to enter hospice, families will now be responsible for certain tasks that were previously handled by medical staff. In our previous article in this series, we walked through the various details that families will need to take care of once their loved one is ready to enter hospice care after a hospital discharge.

Fortunately, families won’t have to handle everything alone, as there are certain aspects of this transition to hospice care that nurses and other staff will help facilitate. Now, we will outline these parts of care families can expect to receive guidance with.


To help ease into the transition of hospice care, nurses will help families get settled in by making sure they have the proper medications, medical equipment, supplies and other comfort items the patient may need. Ultimately, nurses aim to help caregivers understand what they need to do to make the patient as comfortable as possible during this time, and ensure this through a lot of teaching and support. Families will receive instruction from nurses on specific tasks like:

  • administering medication in the correct dosages

  • turning or repositioning the patient in bed

  • changing the patient (if incontinent)

  • observing key signs of disease progressions, signaling end of life

Nurses will teach families the skills to do these things themselves; however, if additional assistance is needed, 24-hour care-at-home can be hired to sit with patients, or help with personal care tasks like bathing, feedings or even preparing meals.

Social Workers

Beyond the necessary duties related to patient care, there are a number of other matters that may need to be handled. Social workers can serve as an invaluable resource for offering practical tools and organization to families who may be too distracted or overwhelmed to sort through. This support can include:

  • Securing care-at-home services

  • Outlining available financial assistance including medical, Social Security or veterans benefits

  • Assisting with funeral planning

Additionally, social workers are licensed and skilled in helping families navigate difficult family dynamics and can provide counsel to caregivers on handling stress or unfinished business.


During the end of life, patients and their families may decide to seek the spiritual support of a chaplain. Hospice chaplains are knowledgeable about all religions and equally supportive of non-religious spirituality. A chaplain travels to the sick individual and their family to offer prayer, reflection and guidance, which can:

  • prompt reflection that brings clarity on one’s life journey thus far

  • inspire healing and connection

  • increase faith

Regardless of one’s personal beliefs, they can be a vital source of spiritual support during one of the most trying times.

Despite the many details and challenges of end of life, nurses, social workers and chaplains all play a helpful role in alleviating some of the stress that patients and their families deal with.

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