Hospice is about letting people know they will not face end-of-life issues alone. It’s about caring individuals giving gentle reinforcement and medical attention to manage pain and suffering. It’s about reaching out to provide needed emotional and spiritual support. And, it’s about dispelling myths and developing a true understanding. When you put your trust in hospice, we promise we'll be there for you ... when you need us ... where you need us ... for as long as you need us.
Most people have a general idea of what hospice is all about. They understand it’s a unique concept of care, and not a physical location. And, that’s a good start. Hospice was born of humble beginnings when cancer was the primary diagnosis for most patients in hospice care. By the early 1980’s, hospice evolved from a strictly volunteer run organization into what it is today – a comprehensive, end-of-life, palliative care program that incorporates up-to-date medical science melded with good old fashion human kindness. Today, hospice services are given to people of all ages who are diagnosed with any life-limiting medical condition.
Men, women and children who have a life limiting medical condition – cancer, heart disease, respiratory or pulmonary conditions, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s, dementia, AIDS or other diagnosis’s may apply for admission to hospice care. Hospice patients receive a thorough briefing along with effective pain and symptom management – usually at no cost to them. Additional services, such as volunteer assistance, pastoral visits and bereavement programs are available and may also be arranged to help patients and family members meet their emotional and spiritual needs.
Each year, hundreds of families throughout Charles County gain firsthand experience of what hospice is all about. They consider themselves blessed and sing praises for the medical care, special attention and emotional encouragement they received in the final days – and afterwards – of a loved one’s terminal illness. Medically speaking, the life expectancy of a terminally ill person is measured in days – approximately 180 days or less – therefore, the remaining time is truly precious.
Following the patient’s admission, the hospice team closely coordinates and works with the family, educating and assisting them in the care of their loved one. Team members schedule regular visits to monitor and administer medical care to the patient, and maintain ongoing communications with the family and other team members. In addition, nurses are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer questions, offer advice and make personal visits.
It is not a sign of giving up
Facing an end-of-life situation may be overwhelming and stressful for the patient, their family and circle of friends. And choosing hospice to help you deal with your crisis is an excellent support group. In fact, a referral or asking hospice to come in and provide palliative care will have a calming effect. It’s making the statement that you recognize curative treatments are no longer a viable option, yet it is important to you to maintain your dignity and quality of life. Hospice is, after all, the responsible choice and helps you prepare. Remember, an early referral will allow you to tie-up any loose ends, make decisions that only you can make, give your family time to deal with the reality of the situation, say your good-byes and make every moment count.
According to national surveys, individuals prefer to: 1) die at home – instead of in a hospital or nursing care facility, 2) be pain free and alert so they may continue to make rationale decisions, function as normally as possible, and enjoy the time they have left with their family and friends, and 3) do not want to be a financial burden – on themselves or their family by continuing aggressive, yet futile medical treatment. With the gentle support and encouragement of hospice professionals and volunteers, both the patient and their family will have a better understanding of what to expect along with what options may be available to them.
Patients admitted to hospice care feel an incredible sense of relief as well as an outpouring of compassion from hospice’s professional staff and trained volunteers. Patients, family caregivers, hospice clinical staff and volunteers will work in concert to help the patient experience the greatest amount relief possible from their pain and suffering. We understand when pain is properly managed, then other medical concerns – as well as emotional and spiritual issues – may be appropriately addressed and quality of life will improve.
The hospice health care professionals– made up of physicians, certified family nurse practitioners, registered nurses, social workers, clergy, dietitians, physical therapists , bereavement coordinator, home health care assistants, and a volunteer coordinator – along with trained volunteers, work closely with family caregivers to choose the appropriate level of medication and therapy, and volunteer participation that will bring an acceptable degree of comfort and support during a very delicate time. It is important to follow the wishes of each patient and their family, and whenever possible provide respite assistance, information and encouragement during this difficult time.