If you have ever been in a situation in which a family member or close friend was referred to hospice you know that this is a special organization. Hospice is not a job – it is a calling. The people who work for hospice perform their duties in a professional manner with a whole-hearted sense of compassion for both the patient and the family. They are exceptional people doing a very difficult job.
The purpose of hospice is to provide care for terminally ill patients. When there are no more treatments or other options that will help to improve the patient’s condition, hospice is called in to assist the family. They provide care, equipment, medications and a support system, which is vital during this difficult time. As pain increases and the condition worsens, hospice will help the patient and family to better understand what is happening. The nurses will make sure the proper medications are available and that the caregivers know how and when it is to be administered. Nurses are available 24 hours a day and will visit the patient in their home at least once a week or more if needed.
We became aware of the good work that hospice does a few years ago when my mother who had cancer was no longer responding to treatments. Her doctor recommended hospice and from the first visit her nurse became a friend and a life line for our family. She provided support for mom and was able to explain her condition and what was happening to her more clearly to my dad than any of the family could. He could not come to terms with the fact that we could not make mom better. Hospice was truly God-sent at a time when we were all heartbroken and struggling to remain strong for mom and dad.
The nurse who was assigned to mom came regularly and helped us to know what to look for as time began to grow short. Her words were kind but clear and each thing she said happened just the way she had explained. Somehow knowing what would be happening and when to expect it helped us to prepare ourselves as much as you can prepare to lose one of the most important people in your life. On her last visit, the nurse whispered her goodbye to mom, told her she loved her and left in tears. She came to the funeral home visitation and to the funeral. This kind of compassion is truly amazing considering these individuals deal with end of life situations on a daily basis.
Since that time we have had the opportunity to explain to other people facing the same situation what a tremendous help hospice is. No matter how much we love a person or how attentive we are to their needs there comes a time when situations beyond our control prevent us from being able to provide the proper care or even to know what that might be. We all want to protect our loved ones and do the very best we can for them. Simply facing the fact that someone we cherish is slipping away is as difficult to deal with as anything we will ever have to do. The support of a trained professional is not only the safest option for the patient; it is also a great comfort to the family.
These are the facts that we have learned about hospice:
- Hospice care is covered by a health care plan.
- The hospice staff are trained professionals who are qualified to provide medical care and guide the family in making decisions regarding the patient’s care.
- They provide information and access to equipment that may be needed now and in the future to offer the best and safest care to the patient.
- Hospice provides care in the comfort of the patient’s home allowing them to live out their remaining time in familiar surroundings.
- Hospice staff are available to explain to the family the different stages that their loved one will experience and how to interpret them. It is easy to grasp for straws during this time and any sign of improvement may give us false hope. Hospice nurses are trained to help the family retain a realistic outlook for their benefit as well as the patient’s.
- They provide emotional support for the caregivers and the family
- The purpose of hospice is not to cure or even treat a condition but to provide pain control and allow the patient to be as comfortable as possible. The quality of life is stressed rather than the quantity.
- Hospice nurses and other staff are committed to allowing the patient to retain their dignity. They are treated with compassion and respect.
- Spiritual counseling is offered for the patient and the family.
- The hospice nurse and staff make arrangements for delivery of any medications needed to help the patient be as pain free and comfortable as possible.
- Hospice helps the family to come to terms with the fact that the natural process of living ends with dying and prepares the family for the time when they must let their loved one go.
Once again my family finds itself in a position where hospice has been assigned to us; this time for my dad. We met with another wonderful nurse and were reassured that the main goal is to provide pain control, support for the family and care with dignity for dad. It is a painful and difficult time for our family as it is for many others who are experiencing the same set of circumstances. I hope that this information will help you if you are in this situation or feel that you may soon be.