Learning About Hospice Care in 7 Steps

Hospice care is a support system for terminally ill people and their loved ones, whereby care and comfort is provided to ease the pain and stress of the illness and loss of life. The group of people that are involved in this process usually include a primary care doctor, nurses, home health aides, spiritual counselors, social workers, pharmacists, trained hospice volunteers, and bereavement counselors. The primary case physician and attendant nurses will coordinate all aspects of the patient’s care. Home health aides help patients with personal care and daily maintenance.

Trained hospice volunteers are available to assist in many areas, from helping caregivers, to transporting patients when needed. Spiritual leaders and social workers counsel patients and loved ones to help them cope with the suffering and prepare them for the future. Bereavement counselors help family and friends deal with the loss of their loved one and moving forward with their lives. There is no set time or precise method to predict exactly when a patient with a terminal illness will pass away, but doctors can estimate timeframes in certain cases. For example, some types of cancer discovered in the beginning stage can be treated aggressively and cured, but in other cases, the disease progresses to a point where it’s not curable, and a doctor will determine an approximate amount of time, or life, the patient has left.

Hospice is very beneficial to patients and their loved ones, and should be accessed as soon as possible, as it improves patients’ quality of life and is a tremendous resource for them, as well as family and friends. Respite care, which is when the patient receives full time care in a facility for a period of time, is one of the most helpful advantages of hospice. It gives the patient’s caregivers a break, as caring for someone with a terminal illness is very stressful and taxing. Hospice care is usually done at home, but facilities like hospitals and nursing homes provide the service as well.

What Is Hospice Care

Hospice care is for patients afflicted with a terminal illness, where the determined prognosis is six months or less of life. The length of time care’s provided isn’t limited to six months, as many patients outlive that amount of time, or sometimes the prognosis is incorrect. The patient’s primary care doctor and hospice team has to attest to the terminal illness in order to continue care. The care team consists of doctors, nurses, clergy, volunteers, and other health care professionals. The focus of this type of care is to make the patient as comfortable as possible during their last days, and to help their family and friends with provision of support and the grieving process. Some people are unaware of hospice care or its advantages, as their doctor may not suggest or mention it, but it should be considered when all treatments become ineffective, because it will provide much needed help to both the patients and their loved ones. The care team, which is compromised mainly of health care professionals, is responsible for organizing the patients’ care around the clock and they make sure to keep everyone on the team up to date. Respite care is provided by most hospice care, sometimes up to five days, to allow caregivers time to recharge and rest; this takes place in an inpatient setting. Bereavement services are also provided to loved ones for up to a year after the patient passes away. Members of the clergy or mental health professionals will maintain contact to provide support through the grieving process.