Our Hospice Philosophy

Nurse sitting with patient

Big Sky Palliative and Hospice believes that choice always exists. Excellent quality of life is always attainable — people with illness can live fully and die well.

When death is accepted as a natural part of life, hope changes but does not disappear. A person faced with serious, life-limiting, or terminal illness need not stop reaching for wishes and dreams. Big Sky Palliative & Hospice has a bias toward saying yes, and we focus on enhancing and maintaining the quality of life as defined by each patient and family.

Hospice is a philosophy aimed at providing palliative (comfort) care to patients in their end-of-life stages. To carry out these services, Big Sky Palliative and Hospice utilizes a medically-directed Interdisciplinary Group that involves patients, their families, professionals, and volunteers. We believe that a “family” includes anyone significant to the patient, regardless of blood relation.

The goals of palliation are comfort, dignity, and quality of life. The difference between this and other treatments designed to cure or control a disease is that palliative care focuses on the person living with the disease rather than on the disease itself. People may choose palliation before “all else has failed” if, in their experience, the burdens of continued curative treatment outweigh its benefits. While Interdisciplinary Team members have expertise in hospice and palliative care, they are not experts in any individual situation. The only experts are the patient and family. They are in charge of determining how their care is planned.

Every effort is made by the hospice team to provide maximum physical comfort for the patient. Hospice then focuses on the heads and hearts of those experiencing the disease process–preparing emotionally and spiritually for death. Big Sky Palliative and Hospice considers it just as important to provide these services to family members as we do to our patients. This is one reason why we provide bereavement counseling for all those grieving the loss of a loved one.

Palliative care does not automatically include nor exclude any specific treatment or approach.  Hospice looks at each difficult symptom–from physical pain to anxiety and isolation–and outlines options for addressing that symptom. Multiple choices are always available. The benefits and burdens of each option are considered, and the patient and family select the option that feels most comfortable.

Big Sky Palliative and Hospice was created by seasoned hospice professionals who are committed to providing care that exceeds all expectations. We do this without prejudice in an environment that supports the integrity and dignity of all people, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Caregiver’s Role

You may not think of yourself as a caregiver, but anyone who helps someone else because that person is no longer able to manage some or all of the activities of daily life is considered a caregiver. Whether the caregiver is a relative, spouse, friend, neighbor, volunteer, or medical professional, it is important to identify the caregiver role.

Your journey in the caregiving role may include a wide variety of experiences. While there are often many intrinsic benefits to caregiving – spending time with a cherished loved one, feeling needed, the opportunity to serve – there may also be challenges and special considerations you must take.

Your role as a caregiver is very important, as another individual depends on you. If your well-being suffers, you may become unable to care for another. So, if you’ve accepted the caregiver role, you also have a special responsibility to take care of yourself. That means assessing and taking care of your own physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, interpersonal, and financial needs. When you have attended to your own needs, you will have so much more to give to the person you’re caring for.

Your Physical Health

hand holding weight, pink background

Physical health is a key caregiver concern. This begins with adequate rest every night. If this is not always possible, then try to fit in naps or break periods during the day. A regular bedtime and a light snack or warm milk may help you fall asleep. Beyond daily rest, you may need periodic breaks from caregiving, and you can plan for a period of respite, such as a long weekend. Discuss this option with a member of your hospice team.

Physical exercise is also important. Regular exercise, for instance, will strengthen you for the rigors of caring for another who needs assistance with their own movement. Generally, physical exercise will help you rest better. It is recommended that you aim for a minimum of 20 minutes of exercise four times a week. Fresh air and sunshine can also lift your spirits, and nature is a great healer.

Good nutrition will facilitate your own health and vigor and support a healthy immune system. If you receive offers of help from others during this time, request a nutritious meal – it is a simple way for others to support you. Any physical illness or healthcare needs should be attended to promptly in order to shorten your recovery time.

Emotional needs

Woman thinking

Emotional health is closely related to overall health, but may be overlooked. Caregivers experience the full range of human emotions – including anger, guilt, impatience, depression, helplessness, love, loneliness, and isolation – sometimes all at the same time.

At times you may tell yourself that some of these feelings are “good” and others “bad.” Rather than label them, it is important to know that all these feelings are normal. Acknowledge your feelings. Accept them. Realize that your situation is not unique and many other caregivers share these feelings.

It may help to have a close friend or confidant you can call daily. It helps to talk to another person so you don’t become overwhelmed. You might choose to create a list of people you can call. Remember, your Big Sky team is also available to listen and act as a resource for emotional support – we are here not only for the patient but for family and caregivers as well.

Due to the number of tasks that need to be completed, stress is almost inevitable in caregiving, and it is often compounded by inadequate rest. While there is often little to be done to change the circumstances creating stress, there are many ways to cope with it.

The following are some suggestions to help alleviate some of your stress:

  • Keep a journal or diary. Writing about your feelings can reduce stress.
  • Read a book or listen to music. These activities provide a pleasurable diversion.
  • Take a long, relaxing bath with bath salts or aromatic oils.
  • Consider getting a therapeutic massage; even a backrub from a friend can help.
  • Listen to relaxation tapes – you can find them at a public library.
  • Exercise. Physical activity naturally produces chemicals in the body that help reduce tension, anxiety and depression.
  • Stay focused in the present moment. Don’t fret about work when you are caregiving or worry about your loved one when you are away.
  • Take a few moments in nature to lift your spirits.
  • Stroke or brush a pet – this is a therapeutic activity for you and the patient.
  • Laughter is healing –watch a funny movie or read a humorous book.
  • Pursue a creative outlet or enjoy a hobby, such as playing a musical instrument, singing, sketching or painting, or writing a short poem. These activities can do much to relieve stress and express emotions.
  • Perform spiritual practices such as prayer, meditation or inspirational reading.
  • Join a support group.
  • When offered time off, take it without guilt or worry. The break will refresh you and help you be a better caregiver.

Spiritual Needs

woman meditating

Spirituality is highly personal, widely defined, and important to many individuals. Some find their time as a caregiver reinforces and strengthens their spirituality. Others may be challenged to find the time to participate in their previous spiritual or religious practices while busy with the demands of caregiving. If your personal spirituality is important to you, you may need to temporarily adjust your caregiving. You might add a regular quiet time to your day for prayer, contemplation, or meditation. Time spent in nature can be rejuvenating. Inspirational reading or music may help you stay connected to your spiritual source. Your Big Sky Hospice chaplain is available to talk to you and direct you toward helpful resources.

Making It Happen

Who has time for all of this? Keep in mind that one activity may help to achieve balance in your life. For example, a walk with a friend provides physical exercise and social interaction and is emotionally and spiritually uplifting. Hobby groups may relieve stress and allow you to discuss current events. Singing in a choir provides a change of scenery, a creative outlet, and social contact.

The most important thing is to begin. It may be difficult to make many changes all at once, so select at least one or two areas to work on right away. Set a realistic goal for yourself to maintain your own well-being and regain a sense of control and balance. Big Sky Hospice team members know all about the caregiver role and can help you through any challenges you may encounter during this journey. Don’t hesitate to use them as your own resource.

What is Hospice: Myths About Hospice Care

‘Hospice’ is a term that describes a specific type of symptom management care for people who will eventually die as a result of a progressive disease. In order to make informed decisions and take advantage of the personalized level of care and services that hospice offers, we can correct our misconceptions.

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Understanding The Grief Process

Emotional

Physical

Behavioral

  • Shock
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic
  • Guilt
  • Anger (at God, medical personnel, yourself, the deceased)
  • Fear (of being alone, of leaving the house, of being in the house)
  • Relief
  • Yearning
  • Gradual Hope
  • Tightness in chest
  • Breathlessness
  • Lack of energy
  • Changing in eating habits
  • Stomach aches
  • Lump in throat
  • Headaches
  • Inability to sleep
  • Lack of motivation
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Unpredictable and uncontrollable tearfulness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Busyness to evade reality
  • Preoccupation with the life of the deceased

You may find yourself busy immediately following your loved one’s death. It is important during this time to take things slowly and enlist the help of friends and family.

You can expect to experience grief for a long time. Be prepared for the possibility of unexpected feelings of bereavement months and even years after your loved one’s death. This is normal.

Grief is a normal, healthy, and human response to loss. It is painful and can seem unbearable at times. Many emotions come and go. The length and difficulty of the grieving process varies from person to person. Grief does not follow a timeline, but it does ease over time. This process can offer an opportunity for personal growth.

A mourning period of a year or more is quite normal, but society often finds it difficult to tolerate a person’s grieving for more than a week or two. Family, friends, and colleagues may become concerned or even impatient if the grieving continues.

Support from friends and family may decrease after the funeral/memorial service. You do not have to go through the grieving process alone. The Big Sky Hospice Bereavement Team is available to you. They can offer support in any way you might find helpful.

If you need support immediately and have not heard from a member of our team, do not hesitate to call the Big Sky Hospice office at 406-543-4408 and express your need.

HEALING AND GROWTH

When ignored grief can continue to cause pain. It is important to recognize grieving, even though it is very difficult work. Allow yourself to feel all emotions that arise and be patient with yourself.

  • Realize your grief is unique
  • Get your rest
  • Journal
  • Meditate
  • Seek out friends who can encourage and support you
  • Get involved in a support group
  • Postpone all major decisions
  • Give in to your pain
  • Realize that grief has no timetable
  • Talk about your sorrow
  • Forgive yourself
  • Eat well and exercise
  • Indulge yourself by doing something that is frivolous and distracting that you enjoy
  • Prepare for holidays and anniversaries
  • Take steps to create a new life for yourself
  • Change traditions that may no longer be comfortable