By Tammy Dermody
In our decades of experience helping people make arrangements for the final stages of life for a loved one, we often hear a common misperception.
Many of our guests — some of whom are supporting family members in potentially life-limiting conditions — hear the word “hospice” and think it’s a place. Many times they think of it like a hospital, but for people toward the end of their lives.
But hospice is not usually a physical place; instead, hospice is peace of mind.
According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, the following are the primary services of hospice:
- Manage the patient’s pain and symptoms;
- Assist the patient with the emotional and psychosocial and spiritual aspects of dying;
- Provide needed drugs, medical supplies, and equipment;
- Coach the family on how to care for the patient;
- Deliver special services like speech and physical therapy when needed;
- Make short-term inpatient care available when pain or symptoms become too difficult to manage at home, or the caregiver needs respite time; and
- Provide bereavement care and counseling to surviving family and friends.
So hospice is help — physical, emotional and spiritual, if desired. Hospice of course assists those nearing the ends of their lives, but it also supports family members through comfort, counseling and more.
The hospice team works with the family to make the patient comfortable, helping to relieve their symptoms and pain for the entire length of their illness. This sometimes happens in a facility, but typically the preferred choice is in a patient’s home where they feel most comfortable and happiest. Most hospice providers are on call around the clock.
If you’ve been referred to a hospice provider for a loved one, we know it’s a difficult realization; but please know that the goal of hospice care is to ease a patient’s burdens and encourage communication and comfort. It provides support and comfort your family member needs to live a fuller, more meaningful life, even in the wake of a life-threatening illness.
The Mayo Clinic offers a comprehensive list of the team members typically involved in hospice care, which can include the following:
- A primary care doctor and a hospice doctor or medical director will oversee your or your loved one’s care.
- Nurses will come to your or your loved one’s home or other setting to provide care. Nurses are also responsible for coordination of the hospice care team.
- Home health aides. Home health aides can provide extra support for routine care, such as dressing, bathing and eating.
- Spiritual counselors. Chaplains, priests, lay ministers or other spiritual counselors can provide spiritual care and guidance for the entire family.
- Social workers. Social workers provide counseling and support. They can also provide referrals to other support systems.
- Pharmacists provide medication oversight and suggestions regarding the most effective ways to relieve symptoms.
- Trained hospice volunteers offer a variety of services depending on your needs, from providing company or respite for caregivers to helping with transportation or other practical needs.
- Other professionals. Speech, physical and occupational therapists can provide therapy, if needed.
- Bereavement counselors. Trained bereavement counselors offer support and guidance after the death of a loved one in hospice
We at Walton’s have profound respect for hospice providers who choose to devote their time and energy to this important and challenging time in a person’s life. And we work closely with hospice providers in our area to help their patients — and their families — through these difficult times.
For a list of those providers, please click here.
And benefit from the peace of mind afforded by hospice care to those facing the end of their lives — and to you.