What is Hospice And Palliative Care?
Although death is a natural part of life, the thought of dying understandably still frightens many people. You may imagine pain and loneliness, spending your final days in the cold, sterile environment of a hospital far from family, friends and all that you know and love. However, hospice care represents a compassionate approach to end-of-life care, enhancing the quality of remaining life and enabling you to live as fully and as comfortably as possible.
Hospice is traditionally an option for people whose life expectancy is six months or less, and involves palliative care (pain and symptom relief) rather than ongoing curative measures, enabling you to live your last days to the fullest, with purpose, dignity, grace, and support.
While some hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities provide hospice care onsite, in most cases hospice is provided in the patient’s own home. This enables you to spend your final days in a familiar, comfortable environment, surrounded by your loved ones who can focus more fully on you with the support of hospice staff.
Hospice is a service which provides end-of-life care to patients. The goal of the service is to allow the dying individual to end their days with dignity and respect. They will provide not only professional hospital services, but also see to the needs of the patients comfort and spirituality.
When selecting a service such as this, one should go over a few points of interest to insure the highest possible quality. The first and probably the most important: how long they have been in business and if they have a good reputation. And there are a couple of ways to find out; go online and look up their web site, in which case it will show if they are accredited or not, or contact the (JCAHO) Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health-care Organizations. The JCAHO shows a list of all organizations providing health care and their certificates of accreditation.
Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions: How many staff members does the agency have? Including how many staff members per patient? How long each day? Who owns the agency? Is it private owned or government run? Who pays for the service? Do they accept any form of help with payment, such as Medicare or Medicaid, which would require the agency to follow certain guidelines set down by the federal government? Is it a non-profit organization or do they have donations which help supply the service? Ask to see their financial records and where the money goes when the service is paid. How much is set aside for their patients and their staff? Food, activities, home needs, etc. This will show you exactly what you get out of your money. What makes their service better than others? And above all else, don’t be afraid to ask to see the individual or individuals who will be a part of your last days on Earth. No one wants to end their days with someone who isn’t sympathetic to their needs or wants.
The task of providing a service such as this is tailored to the needs of the dying, but the living have to continue once they are gone. And the emotional and spiritual help for them is just as important. An important part of Hospice should be to have a counselor, priest, or clergy of some kind on hand to see to the emotional well being of the survivors.
Talking about hospice and end-of-life issues
For many in Western society, death remains a taboo subject. Consequently, many patients and their families remain reluctant to even discuss the possibility of hospice care or palliative care. While most people would prefer to die in their own homes, the norm is still for terminally ill patients to die in hospital, receiving treatment that is either unwanted or ineffective.
Their loved ones usually have only limited access and often miss sharing their last moments of life. Some families who do choose hospice care often do so only for the last few days of life, and later regret not having more time saying goodbye to their loved one.
To ensure that your family understands your wishes, it’s important for anyone with a life-limiting illness to learn all they can about hospice and palliative care and discuss their feelings with loved ones before a medical crisis strikes. When your loved ones are clear about your preferences for treatment, they’re free to devote their energy to care and compassion.
How hospice and palliative care works
Hospice care focuses on all aspects of a patient’s life and well-being: physical, social, emotional, and spiritual. There is no age restriction; anyone in the late stages of life is eligible for hospice services. While specific hospice services around the world differ in the amenities they provide, most include a hospice interdisciplinary team, or IDT, that includes the patient’s physician, a hospice doctor, a case manager, registered nurses and licensed practical nurses, a counselor, a dietician, therapist, pharmacologist, social workers, a minister, and various trained volunteers.
The hospice team develops a care plan tailored to a patient’s individual need for pain management and symptom relief, and provides all the necessary palliative drugs and therapies, medical supplies, and equipment. Typically, hospice care is provided at home and a family member acts as the primary caregiver, supervised by professional medical staff.
Hospice IDT members make regular visits to assess the patient and provide additional care and services, such as speech and physical therapy, therapeutic massage, or dietary assistance. Certified home health aides may also be deployed for help with bathing and other personal care services. Hospice staff remains on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
A hospice IDT also provides emotional and spiritual support according to the needs, wishes, and beliefs of the patient. Emotional and spiritual support is also provided to the person’s loved ones as well, including grief counseling.
The benefits of hospice and palliative care
Hospice care providers offer specialized knowledge and support at the end of life just as obstetricians and midwives lend support and expertise at the start of life. Hospice can reduce anxiety in both the terminally ill patient and his or her family by helping them make the most of the time remaining and achieve some level of acceptance.
When terminally ill patients, who are often already in a weakened physical and mental state, make the decision to receive hospice and palliative care instead of continued curative treatment, they avoid the dangers of over-treatment. In-home care from a hospice IDT often means the patient receives greater monitoring than he or she would in a hospital.
In addition to focusing on the physical health and comfort of a patient, hospice care also focuses on the emotional needs and spiritual well-being of the terminally ill and their loved ones. Since a hospice program offers substantial support and training for family caregivers, it also helps many patients feel less of a burden to their loved ones.
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