By Elizabeth M. Lee, RN

Once again we celebrate a wonderful and caring option of care for patients who are facing end of life illness. Many people think hospice means a place to die. It is not. It is a specialized program and philosophy of health care to provide comfort for individuals approaching the end of life.

Seven out of 10 Americans say they would prefer to die at home, according to a CNN poll, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 25 percent actually do.

Dying is difficult to talk about, even difficult to think about. Death is neither a concept nor a medical rarity, yet dying is not to be viewed as a simple event. If the attempt to reverse the course of a terminal disease is medically futile and only leads to prolonged pain and suffering for the patient and family, then the logical decision is to change the pattern and goal of care to provide more satisfying results.

Embracing the hospice philosophy of palliation (comfort measures) for both the patient and family enables the patient to receive excellent pain management and undesirable symptom control. Patient goals of care are foremost and must be included in daily care.

Providing patient and family comfort through hospice requires, by definition, a holistic approach that encompasses medical, nursing, psychosocial, spiritual, and ultimately bereavement care. The patient and the family are the unit of care. This approach makes hospice unique in the health care field. Hospice care requires more attention to detail to be effective than acute care, in that it deals with the whole person, not just a disease.

An interdisciplinary team is utilized in the care of the patient. This includes:

  • Physician
  • Nurse
  • Social worker
  • Chaplain
  • Aide
  • Grief services

Hospice care emphasizes supporting a patient to live fully during a time of decline. It offers new hope and goals, not for survival, but for physical and emotional comfort and dignity. This care is mainly offered in the patient’s home, or wherever “home” is located.

In the United States we are fortunate. We have the Hospice Medicare Benefit that covers the care, medications, supplies, equipment that is necessary for the patient’s end of life illness. Many private insurance plans also provide a hospice benefit as well as some state Medicaid plans. This is a huge cost savings for the patient and family.

For more information on our Hospice and Palliative Care programs, contact one of our Care Coordinators today who will be glad to assist you.