Some patients do not want to pursue efforts for curing a fatal illness, condition or disease. Such people need hospice care. It focuses on the quality of life for patients with a life-limiting illness. The purpose of hospice care is to make sure the people who are in the last phases of incurable illness live comfortably.
The philosophy of hospice is that death has been accepted as the final stage of life. Hospice care also treats the symptoms of the disease. However, the goal of the treatment is not treating the disease itself. A team of professional caregivers manage the symptoms so that the last days of the person are spent in comfort and dignity surrounded by loved ones.
Overview of Hospice Care
Hospice is the type of medical care that provides comfort and maintains the quality of life of the patient. The care focuses on the well being of the patient. Along with treating the physical condition of the patient, the emotional, spiritual and social needs of the patient are also met.
Hospice care also provides support to the family of the patient in this difficult time. Some hospice services also assist the family after the death of the patient. Hospice care does not hasten death. The mission of the care is to affirm life and help the patient accept that death is a natural process. It also helps patients live the remaining days of their life in a fuller and comfortable way.
Hospice care can be provided at the home of the patient or the patient can receive temporary inpatient care in the facility. Hospice care is not a 24/7 nursing care center. Family members must hire caregivers or staff from the nursing home to meet the caregiving needs of their loved ones.
Services Provided by Hospice
As defined by the Medicare Hospice Benefit, 1982, hospice care includes the following services:
- Nursing: Each hospice patient gets a case manager nurse. They visit 1 to 3 days a week. These nurses are supposed to be available on-call 24/7 to address emergency needs.
- Medical social services: A patient gets a social worker who assists them with their social and emotional needs.
- Physician: The regular physician of the patient cooperates with the hospice medical center to design a care plan that meets their needs. They are also willing to provide care as and when needed.
- Medical equipment: The hospice center arranges necessary medical equipment to provide a caring, safe and comfortable environment to the patient. The supplies required include a wheelchair, hospital bed, adult diapers, oxygen, bandages, etc.
- Counseling: The patients and their loved ones often need counseling. This includes spiritual support, dietary services, and bereavement counseling for the caregivers and family after the death of the patient.
- Medication: The hospice provides medication for the patient’s diagnosis, to control the symptoms of the disease and pain management.
- Therapists: Depending on the needs of the patient, some hospice also provides occupational, physical and language therapists to the patients.
- Home health aid: All patients need personal care time after time. For that, home health aid is provided 1 to 3 times a week.
- Family meetings: The care also involves regular meetings led by a social worker or a hospice nurse to keep the family members posted on the condition of the patient. These meetings also create an environment for everyone to share their feelings. Such meetings can be a great stress reliever for the entire family.
- Respite care: Some hospice agencies also provide respite care to allow the family members and the patient some time away from caregiving. The respite care is given for up to 5 days. During these days, the family can plan a mini-vacation, attend special events or simply provide the patient with a restful environment at home or in the inpatient setting.
Note: The type of services each patient receives depends on their needs and the need of the family. The services can also be adjusted according to the patient’s condition over time.
Hospice Care Vs Palliative Care
Hospice care and palliative care have the same aim – provide relief to the patient from the symptoms and improve the quality of their life. Hospice care also includes palliative care at times but both services are not the same.
Hospice care is provided during the last phase of the incurable disease or when the life of the patient is about to end. Advanced stage of cancer is one such example. Hospice care is provided when the patient is not receiving any active treatment for the illness. The treatment given during hospice care involves managing the symptoms of the underlying diseases.
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The team at the hospice center coordinates with the patient’s physician and medical care team to devise a treatment plan. They keep on communicating as well.
Palliative care, on the other hand, can be provided at any stage of the illness. Palliative care usually is provided when the patient is receiving active treatment. The agency that is providing palliative care is separate from the medical team of the patient which is managing the treatment for the illness. However, there is consistent communication between the two teams.
Misconception about Hospice Care
Patients don’t start hospice care soon enough. The patients and sometimes their family members resist the care because they think hospice care means giving up on life since there is no hope.
Even if a patient is in hospice care, they are free to leave and receive active treatment for their disease. Hospice care is there to improve the quality of the patient’s life. It helps them make the best of each day during the last stage of the illness.
Sometimes the doctors of the patient don’t bring up hospice care as well. If the treatment of your loved one is not working anymore or they are out of options, you might want to ask them if they want to receive hospice. This could relieve their stress, improve the quality of life and help them spend a memorable time in their last days.