Life has a funny way of surprising us and keeping us on our toes. Most of us get out of bed every day, attempting to balance work and family life. As we get older, our priorities shift from trying to juggle the day-to-day responsibilities of caring for our children and spouses to caring for our parents, who may be suffering from medical issues.
According to statistics, an American baby born in 2016 can expect to live for (on average) 78.6 years. This is significantly higher than in 1960 when the average life expectancy was 69.2 years. This has an impact on us in a variety of ways, some positive and some negative.
With increased life expectancy comes the possibility of financial difficulties and medical issues. According to some studies, Americans are living longer but in poorer health. Those who live longer may face disabilities and chronic illnesses such as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and cancer, forcing us to decide on the best course of care for ourselves and our loved ones.
Do we pursue aggressive, curative treatments with no holds barred, including trial studies, experimental drugs, and non-conventional treatments? Do we pursue conventional medicine in a more traditional manner? Or do we follow the increasingly popular path of hospice and palliative care?
What exactly is hospice care?
Hospice care focuses on providing medical, psychosocial, and spiritual comfort to people who are suffering from a terminal illness. It has been used since the Middle Ages, which is much longer than many modern treatments. When physician Dame Cicely Saunders began treating the terminally ill in 1948, it became more specialized.
Is hospice synonymous with death?
Is it true that choosing hospice and palliative care entails giving up? As a hospice nurse for over 23 years, I can attest firsthand – both professionally and from the perspective of a loved one – that it does not. In fact, it’s the polar opposite.
Hospice and palliative care is a highly specialized, one-of-a-kind component of healthcare that treats the patient and their family holistically by focusing on the individual rather than the disease. The goal is to ensure that the patient’s symptoms are aggressively controlled, that the disease trajectory is managed to minimize associated symptoms, and that the patient and their loved ones are navigating their own ship.
Hospice is not synonymous with “GIVING UP.” Hospice is “RISING.”
Hospice is “building” a team of highly specialized, uniquely qualified, truly optimistic, and profoundly compassionate professionals who have dedicated their lives to making a positive difference in the life of you or a loved one.
Hospice is “getting up” a slew of specialized, patient-specific treatment modalities that will effectively minimize or alleviate the condition’s symptoms.
Hospice is “getting up” a plan of care that ensures the outcome is always focused on the patient and family.
While you cannot predict the future, when you choose hospice care, you can be confident that you will be provided with a team of professionals who will never give up on providing you and your family with the best possible care.
The hospice team is specially trained in end-of-life care, which can be provided anywhere the patient calls home, including assisted living, nursing homes, and private residences. Hospice care is also available in hospitals and facilities that only serve hospice patients.
Hospice care benefits include a variety of support services for patients and their families, in addition to pain and symptom management: education, emotional and spiritual support, assistance with financial issues, assistance with the patient’s personal care and hygiene, and respite care to give a family caregiver a break of up to 5 days.
What Is Hospice Care and What Does It Do?
Hospice care is a type of palliative care that is provided to patients who have advanced illnesses and are nearing the end of their lives. This comfort-focused care aims to improve patients’ quality of life after they have decided not to pursue curative treatment any longer.
Hospice care is holistic. It attends to the patient’s clinical, emotional, and spiritual needs, as well as their end-of-life goals and wishes. As a result, hospice patients are often able to live out their remaining days, weeks, and months more comfortably—and in many cases, for longer periods of time—than if they had pursued curative treatment until the point of death.
While hospice care focuses on a patient with a terminal illness, the patient’s family and caregivers are also supported.
- Support with day-to-day care
- Opportunities for respite care
- Support for emotional, spiritual, and long-term grief
Hospice is brimming with hope.
Some hospice patients’ health improves, often as a result of the solicitous; some even choose to discontinue their Medicare hospice benefit for a time.
Even if the disease progresses as expected, studies show that terminally ill patients who receive hospice care live longer than similar patients who do not receive hospice care.
Patients in hospice experience a sense of relief and control. Regular visits from their nurse and hospice aide help to control pain and other symptoms, reducing the need for emergency hospitalization. Being at home with family and friends can improve one’s quality of life. Conversations with the team’s social worker or chaplain help to alleviate emotional distress. Slowly, a hospice patient and their family begin to look forward to the future.
The advantages of hospice care empower both patients and caregivers. Patients have control over how they spend their final months, and caregivers can receive physical and emotional support while spending quality time with their loved ones.