That is a valid question that grandchildren, and their parents, will ask. Many people react to the word “Hospice” like we used to react to the word “cancer.” It was the “C” word and no one wanted to say it out loud. Back in the 1980’s Alzheimer’s was the “A” word and no one wanted to say it out loud. If we said it, then it might have been real.
Hospice is a wonderful organization that assists families who are dealing with long term illnesses and/or terminal illnesses. Unfortunately, people are under the assumption that if you are a patient receiving Hospice’s care, you are dying and that is not necessarily an accurate belief.
There are two programs that operate within Hospice’s boundaries. The first is PALLIATIVE CARE and the second is HOSPICE CARE.
PALLIATIVE CARE provides short or long term services for patients with serious, on-going, chronic illnesses. A patient may have COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), CHF (Congestive Heart Failure), kidney disease or liver disease. The patient needs specific nursing care and medications to assist with pain management. This is a program for someone who is NOT terminal, but does need management of the symptoms he is dealing with at that moment in time. A doctor must recommend a patient to be in this program.
HOSPICE CARE provides end of life care for a patient who the doctor has determined is terminal and has approximately 6 months or less to live. The patient might have any of the diseases I mentioned above, but might also have Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy Body Dementia, lung cancer or perhaps colon cancer. Due to the progression of the disease, the doctor has determined that nothing further can be done medically to improve or save the patient’s life. What is so beneficial to patients and families is that Hospice’s programs are able to provide services for patients if they are at home, in an assisted living-memory care community, a traditional assisted living setting or a nursing home. Obviously, the type of care that is needed would determine the best location for the patient. But, many people want to die in their own bed at home. Under the appropriate circumstances, Hospice can make that happen.
So many families wait until the “last minute” to arrange for Hospice services for their loved one. The advantage of participating in Hospice is that they not only have nurses that visit the patient, they also have social workers, chaplains, volunteers and physicians who will see the patient on a regular basis. The staff members will also spend time with the family as they face difficult decisions regarding care.
Upon a person’s death, Hospice will remain in contact with the family for 13 months to get them through the difficulty of birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. Support groups are available and many Hospice’s have summer camps for children whose family members have been part of the Hospice program. These aspects of Hospice are just as beneficial for the family, as their services were for the patient.
If you are ever in a position to use Hospice’s services for a loved one, I would recommend that you NOT wait until the “last minute.” I have dealt with many families over the years who have been part of Hospice and they are extremely grateful for the love and care that they all received. Hospice brings a sensitive, caring touch to the medical world through people who fully understand what is happening and want to make the journey as comfortable as possible.