Healthy Happenings August 2010
Hospice Specialty Care
Tracy Harris, RN; Lois Mackenzie, RN; Dee Gulledge, RN; Carla Bird, RN
Most people have heard of hospice, but some people, who have not had personal experience with it, may have misconceptions.
One common misperception is that hospice care is only for the last week of life. Actually, the sooner hospice begins to work with the individual and family the greater the impact to the life and death of the individual. Hospice neither prolongs life nor hastens death however, it is designed to anticipate and avert crises and improve the comfort of the dying individual. A very common statement from the families of hospice patients is “I wish I had asked for hospice care sooner.” The breadth of support that hospice can provide, from nurses’ aides to medications, to inpatient respite care is more useful before the last week of life. Often hospice is only requested when a crisis occurs. However, bringing the service on early allows relationships to form and valuable support to blossom to more fully alleviate unnecessary challenges in the inevitable process that lies ahead.
Another common misperception is that hospice is only for the individual who is dying. However, Hospice is designed to assist the family as well as the patient. Every individual exists within the context of their “family”, whether by blood or of their own choosing. As humans we are interconnected and the troubles and travails of one individual affect the lives of others.
Like the waves formed when a pebble is thrown into a pond, the closer one is to the person who is suffering, the greater the impact on our own lives. When a loved one, family or friend is ill it affects us as well. Although we may not give voice to our fears, or concerns, the emotional burden is still present none-the-less. Hospice recognizes the importance of “family” and “community”, and the consequences of an individual’s illness upon those that care for them.
To care for a loved one during a medical crisis or grave illness can bring great rewards, and great challenges. Hospice is designed to provide assistance to families and to even provide respite should that be necessary as well. Even after the friend or family member has passed away, the journey of those that cared for that person is far from over. In the days, weeks, and months that pass, those that remain behind must endeavor to learn how to live without their loved one, family member and friend. They may complete the journey on their own, or with the help of friends, counselors or support groups. Hospice is available after the loss of the loved one to aid this part of the grieving process as well.
Hospice is a program designed to provide specialty care to individuals who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness or nearing the end of life, as with advanced age. The goals of hospice are to allow an individual to preserve their dignity and maintain their right of self determination and allow the individual to remain in their home, is so desired, throughout the remainder of their life..