It took me a long time to finally seat and try to write this post for you. My motivation was solely for the fact that my own experience can certainly help other people. And first of all, let me say this, if you are in a stage of your life when you have to prepare your home for hospice for a loving one, I am truly sorry for you. This was by far the hardest experience I ever been through, and I am still not over it – even though it’s has been almost 2 years now.
This post I will cover all the essential items you will need to prepare a good hospice so your loved one can live his last days of his life. Of course I understand everyone have different setup in their homes and different needs. But I will cover all the basics. No extra useless items. Just the strictly necessary. I would like to emphasize that we have bought (or rented) most of the items I will mention in here (so there is no fake advertisement).
Quick Note to Explain my Own Experience
My father – the most important person in my life, along with my daughter – was diagnosed with Cancer exactly the same day I confirmed my pregnancy. That was it, since Day 1, I was never really able to celebrate my so planned pregnancy. My feelings were all contradictory, I was so overwhelmed with happiness but I was also devasted. It didn’t help living in a strange city I just moved out 1 year ago, where I didn’t really know anyone and I was almost 10.000km away from my dad.
His battle with Cancer lasted a little bit more than 1 year. Enough time for me to deliver my daughter, getting her all the vaccines and be able to travel when she was 3 months old and to spend the very last month of my father’s life with him.
This post is all about what happened during this last month of my father’s life and how I – and other members of my family – tried to make it as easy as possible for him.
Essential Items you will Need when Setting Up your Home for a Hospice
Essential Items for Setting Up your Bedroom for Hospice and Palliative Care
If your loved one has a terminal illness and he is at the end of his life, chances are he is too weak to get out of the bed or going out of the room for an extended period of time. If this is the case, you have to focus on setting up the bed and bedroom first.
1. Hospital bed
In some cases, getting a hospital bed is extremely necessary. We have an entire post about this named “Things to Know Before Buying a Hospital Bed”. The main feature about an hospital bed is that it can be totally adjusted to the user’s needs. If he needs to seat down to eat or just to be more comfortable, you can just push a button and he will be able to get to the position he wants. Another great feature is the bed rail, which is a great help for the user to get up, get down, and even change his position when the bed adjustments are not enough.
Check a good example of a Hospital Bed on Amazon.
2. Memory Foam Pillow
If you can’t afford buying a bed (or rent it) or you don’t think it’s really necessary, you can try to accommodate your loved one with amazing memory foam pillows. Get more than one, if it’s necessary, with different sizes, shapes and consistencies. It can do the trick and help your loved one getting to adapt it to comfortable positions.
Take a look at this example of a memory foam pillow on Amazon.
3. Bed Rail
Again, if you are adapting an existing bed into a hospital bed, you can do so by getting some bed rails separately. As mentioned before, they can be pretty useful for your loved one.
Check a good example of a Bed Rail on Amazon.
4. Bed Tray
There will be a time that your loved one will be to weak to get out of the bed for every meal and he will start to eat in bed. A good steady and spacious bed trail will be then essential.
Check the end of the post “Things to Know Before Buying a Hospital Bed ” for bed trays.
Take a look at this good example of a Bed Tray on Amazon.
5. Side Table
If you don’t have a bed table beside your loved one’s bed, you should get one. There will be many things that will need to be reachable, so a side table is also a must-have. It needs to be a place where you can leave all the essential things your loved one needs daily. From laptops and cell phones, from wireless caregiver pagers and pill organizers.
We have a post featuring many good examples with great multi-use side table called “Why do Seniors Need a Multi-Use Sofa Side Table?” that can also be used as bed tray, if you want to check out.
But if you prefer an actual “traditional” bedside table or nightstand, check this great example on Amazon.
6. Wireless Caregiver Pager
A Wireless Caregiver Pager, or Urgent button, should be the very first thing you should get – if you haven’t yet.
My father’s place is huge and it has two floors and a big garden, so by the end he was getting too worried about needing something and not having no one to help him. I then got him an urgent button. This was the best “gift” I could have given to him at that point. First, when he was still feeling strong enough, he would leave it on his side table, just in case. But when the weeks went by, he started to feel that he would be leaving us soon, he started to wear it around his neck. And he used it until his very last day at home with us. He felt really secured knowing that by pushing the button, the whole house would listen, since there were two noise receptors, one installed in the living room, close to the garden, and another in the kitchen.
Check a good example of a great Wireless Caregiver Pager on Amazon. This one was actually the one I got to my father and it was really useful.
7. Pill Organizer
Pill organizers are so important for a terminally ill patient and it’s such a cheap thing to get, that everyone who takes pills daily should have.
We wrote an entire post a while ago named “How technology can help seniors to manage their medication” in which we talk all about different devices to manage medication. It turns out that there are too many available on the market right now, it’s up to you to choose what fits you the best.
Check this example of an excellent pill reminder on Amazon.
8. Entertainment to Have on the Side Table
Because your loved one will be spending too much time in bed. It is really important for him to have things to do. This one is actually very personal, and it varies from person to person.
By the end of his life, my father was watching a lot of TV as well. Mostly old movies that he would be very nostalgic about. If you don’t have an installed TV in the bedroom, I would highly recommend for you to do so. We have a post about good easy-to-use TVs for seniors called “Do seniors need a special TV or a smart TV?”, if you want to get more info about it.
And if you have a TV, sometimes an easy-to-use remote control may come in handy. Take a look at our post about easy-to-use remote control for seniors “Do Seniors Need a Special TV Remote Control?”.
My father was also reading a lot of spiritual books. One author that is internationally famous and that he was reading a lot, was Eckhart Tolle. One good book I recommend from this author is the Power of Now.
Check the book “The Power of Now” on Amazon.
Brain games, such as Crosswords, Sudoku and others, are an excellent way to pass the time while still exercizing your mind. We have a post featuring many free resources for brain games online “Free Printable Crosswords and More Brain Games to Boost Memory for Seniors” you can check out, if you are interested.
Essential Items for Setting Up your Bathroom for Hospice and Palliative Care
Once you set up the bedroom for a hospice, the next step is to fix the bathroom.
The idea is to make your loved one feeling as independent as possible so he can feel he still has some control of the situation. Otherwise, not only it will be harder on you – or on any other caregiver – but will also lead to irritability and/or depression from your loved one.
In our post “25 Best Bathroom Gadgets for Seniors” we cover many different gadgets we can get to make the bathroom an easy target for terminally ill patients. In this post, I mention the most important items.
1. Toilet Safety Rail
Needing assistance to go to the bathroom is one of the most degrading things that can happen to a person. Therefore, a toilet assistant is also essential.
My father tried as much as he could to have his independence to go to the bathroom alone. And we tried everything we could to let him being independent until his last days.
Terminally ill seniors with limited mobility may need handles to both sit on the toilet and to get out from it. Getting a Toilet Safety Rail that is completely adjustable and rotate back to allow a wide range of comfortable and secure positions will make your life (and your loved one’s) way easier.
Check this example of an excellent Toilet Safety Rail on Amazon.
2. Bathtub Shower Lift Chair
Terminally ill seniors with limited mobility may also need to sit during a shower. It doesn’t really matter if it is a real need or rather convenient. Seating during the shower will surely make them more comfortable.
Check this example of a Bathtub Shower Lift Chair on Amazon.
3. Anti-slip Shower Mat
Along with the bathtub shower lift chair, to stay even safer in the bathtub or shower an anti-slip shower mat is a good option. It gives you an excellent grip surface based on hundred of suction cups. Suction cups stick easily and the mat doesn’t move. I also really like that there are holes to make sure water doesn’t get caught underneath.
Check this example of an Anti-slip Shower Mat on Amazon.
4. Bath & Shower Handle
Aside with the anti-slip shower mat, a handle is essential to keep a senior with limited mobility safe from falling while wet. There are many handles with suction cups, that are very easy to install, not making a permanent hole on the wall, and still very reliable.
Check this example of an Bath & Shower Handle on Amazon.
Other items that may be essential
While bedrooms and bathrooms are probably the places your loved one will be really using. It’s also important to think about mobility.
In my dad’s case, because we had easy access the to a family engineering firm firm, it was not so difficult (nor so expensive) to actually build an elevator inside the bedroom for my father to use in his last weeks (although we all knew it was a matter of weeks, nobody really wanted to believe that the end was this close). But I know we were very privileged to have the opportunity of getting an elevator done in such a short period and actually, to have the elevator done in the first place!
But I am pretty aware an elevator is a pretty unrealistic thing to get!
So the other essential items I would mention would be some mobility devices and standing aids to help your loved one to sit down and get up when he pleases.
It will all depend on your loved one’s mobility limitations. There are a wide range of mobility devices for all kinds of needs.
If your loved one is not too weak to walk, a simple walker will do.
Check this best seller example of walker on Amazon.
Otherwise, it’s good to get a wheelchair.
Check this best seller example of a wheelchair on Amazon.
As for standing aids, we have a whole post that covers many different kinds of stand aids named “Standing Aids for Living Room, Bedroom, Bathroom, Car and More”, so you can take a look if you need one.
The Bottom Line
I feel like I could spend days writing this post adding all the little things we ended up getting to my dad (and that are still “hunting” my childhood home, stored somewhere, long after he is gone, and bringing back some of the worst memories of my life). But I tried to make sure of giving you a reasonable list of just the extremely essential items you will need, keeping in mind that your loved one is terminally ill, and getting weaker each day.
Of course, everyone’s needs are different. Of course I wrote this post based on my own experiences and on my father’s specific needs. And of course these items I listed will not be needed by everyone. But one thing I know for sure, when in doubt, go with these items. All, and each of them, have made my dad’s final days (and our lives) a little bit easier. If I could go back in time, I would have give him much more.
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