Meeting the unique needs of hospice family caregivers

Meeting the unique needs of hospice family caregivers

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When family members are providing care at the end of a loved one’s life, they have unique needs. Because they are often in a highly emotional situation, they want fast responses to their questions and round the clock support. The best way to make sure your agency can support these needs is by implementing technology that lets your care team communicate and collaborate in real time.

Imagine a scenario where three siblings are taking shifts providing hospice care for a parent in partnership with an agency. There are several tools that can coordinate and simplify communication for the family and for your staff.

Messaging options

First, having a message center function as part of your technology platform allows multiple caregivers access to the hospice care application and keeps a record of all messages. Settings allow your staff the option to initiate messages around the clock, or to limit message initiation to specific hours, and lets the family respond without the need to pick up a phone, be put on hold or leave a voice mail.

Another advantage with this system is that a provider could message all caregivers at once, so everyone has access to the same information at the same time. This improves the accuracy and consistency of the care they provide and is more convenient for the hospice agency.

Some technology platforms also offer the option of a video chat, which may be able to include multiple caregivers depending on internet bandwidth. Video chats can be initiated by hospice staff, or the family caregivers can request a video session. In addition to the convenience of communicating to several caregivers at once, as mentioned above, video chat can also be a useful tool if the caregivers in the home need the hospice staff to see something specific: a change in the patient’s breathing or a new rash, for example. This not only gives the family peace of mind but lets the hospice staff be prepared before the next home visit in case the patient needs new medication or supplies.

Messaging apps in a hospice platform should also let providers send out broadcast messages—messages that relay information but that family members cannot respond to. This kind of communication is helpful, for example, if your agency will be closed for a holiday or your caregivers need to take steps to prepare for an emergency such as an approaching hurricane.

family members are providing care

Document sharing

Sharing documents and forms is another key feature of hospice technology platforms that help meet agency and caregiver needs. Electronic documents can speed up admissions by allowing family caregivers to fill out forms, sign online and immediately return them.

Materials like welcome packets and educational handouts are more convenient when handled electronically. It’s easy for caregivers to download and save what they need, or share information with other family members, and it’s easier for agencies to update documents as information changes. Other commonly used forms that are better handled electronically include supply request forms, satisfaction surveys and revocation forms.

And again, in the case of our three siblings providing care in shifts for their loved one, the best electronic document technology lets you choose who gets the educational materials or a copy of a completed form. It could be all three of them, or one person many be designated, but either way there will be a record right in the platform, for them and for the hospice provider.

Educational resources

When family members need to provide hospice care, there’s a strong likelihood they’ve never had experience with the process and don’t know what to expect. Education is a key part of working with these families.

But it’s also important to remember, especially at the beginning, that they’ve probably been inundated with information and may not remember all the details. Having an online caregiver handbook and details about their loved one’s specific needs means they have 24/7 access to the information they need.

And the right technology platform allows your hospice staff to tailor the information they see. If the patient has end-stage heart failure, for example, you can share pdfs about the specific things they can expect to see, and you can alert them to abnormal symptoms that indicate that your staff may need to step in and help. You can gather and share pdfs containing the specific information they need for the disease state they’re experiencing. Educational materials are also a good place to remind family members that if they need help, they should call your hospice agency first, rather than 911.

Connected, compassionate care

Technology can be a powerful ally for families navigating hospice care. At CitusHealth, by focusing on the complexities of end-of-life care, we’ve been able to design digital solutions that support family caregivers while also helping hospice staff get the most of our technology investments. Embracing technology tools can make the challenging journey of hospice care more manageable, compassionate, and connected.


Christie McWilliams
Christie McWilliams
RN, Implementation Consultant, CitusHealth

As an Implementation Consultant at CitusHealth, Christie successfully assists healthcare companies to digitally transform their processes using the CitusHealth application. Christie has been a registered nurse for 12 years in various positions within home infusion, home health, and hospital settings. Christie applies the extensive knowledge she has gained during her nursing career to assist CitusHealth customers in utilizing the application to its fullest advantage.