Hospice. The word alone can incite panic. It signifies the end of one life and the beginning of another chapter for the ones left behind. And perhaps that’s the reason just the mere mention of hospice evokes such sadness and fear – in trying to avoid that final goodbye, we often just don’t talk about it. “You struggle with guilt,” says Careplus Hospice Services hospice nurse, Kerri Kellogg. “With Alzheimer’s, you feel like you’re losing your loved one over and over – so we understand not wanting to talk about hospice, because it feels final.” You may wonder if you’re doing the right thing.
But there are many misconceptions about hospice. You may be surprised to learn that this invaluable service can greatly improve not just the patient’s life, but also does so much for the entire family. We spoke with 2 hospice care professionals to learn more about this misunderstood and all too often underutilized service to shed light on the subject.
Hospice does not hasten death; it’s about quality of life, dignity, and comfort.
One of the biggest myths about hospice is that they are only there to administer morphine and wait for death to come. This is simply not true. “We add to the quality of life. We do not hasten death. We treat the whole person; emotional, spiritual, and physical,” says Marlene Tate, Hospice Community Liaison for Pathway Hospice. In fact, patients on hospice sometimes live longer than those with the same diagnosis who don’t receive hospice care. The patient benefits significantly from the extra layer of comprehensive care provided by hospice, in addition to the care they are already receiving day to day. Hospice nurse Kerri Kellogg agrees: “It’s all about quality of life. People think it’s about dying. It’s not.” Medications are never withheld nor is oxygen ever removed for any reason. The goal is always dignity, comfort, and quality of life.
So what is hospice, exactly?
History of Hospice
The origins of hospice go all the way back to medieval times and are actually rooted in hospitality. When travelers were on long journeys and became ill, they needed a place to rest. Hospice referred to those who kindly offered a safe place for the sick and weary travelers. A fitting backstory for this transitional period of life. “I think of it this way,” says Marlene, “people are graduating to the next level, and we’re just there to see them off.” Hospice is there to make that time as comfortable as possible. Kerri concurs, saying, “I don’t ever want one of my patients to pass alone.” She notes the disparity between how we mark birth and death. There is such celebrating surrounding birth, but perhaps we don’t always honor the end of life with the same rejoicing. Instead of keeping it at arm’s length or dwelling in sadness, we should celebrate with joy that a life has been lived.
Hospice care: this refers to comprehensive care rendered to someone with a terminal diagnosis who is dying. It includes physical care in addition to many other support services such as financial, spiritual, and legal guidance.
Palliative care: pain management care to relieve suffering. While you do receive palliative care as part of hospice to relieve pain, it is often mistakenly used to describe hospice care in general. You do not have to be dying to receive palliative care.
Comfort care: this is specialized care administered in the final days of life and helps provide a peaceful and pain-free transition for your loved one.
What does hospice look like today? Click to continue reading –>
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