The term ‘caregiver’ refers to those providing direct support to someone with a life-threatening illness. This may include family, friends, volunteers, counsellors, doctors, nurses, personal care aides and spiritual counsellors. The ‘primary’ caregiver is usually a family member who is responsible for coordinating support services knowing the needs and wishes of the person who is ill.
Often, primary caregivers want to solely provide care for their family member. However, the illness may be lengthy, making it necessary for the primary caregiver to set limits and seek help to prevent exhaustion. Home care help is available from hospice and home care agencies.
Caregivers need to take special care of themselves so they can continue to provide love and understanding and to find meaning through their care giving. Suffering can be any combination of physical, emotional, or spiritual crisis. By reacting to the deepest needs caregivers are able to assist in the dying process on their loved one’s own terms; this is perhaps the truest meaning of hospice palliative care.