Hospice may sound like an uncomfortable subject to discuss because of the painful matter at hand, which is the thought of losing a loved one. This results it to be often misunderstood, becoming a topic many families and patients avoid discussing. However, when a patient is placed in hospice care, it is solely for the purpose of ensuring quality of life and allowing alternative therapies and medications which may prolong life. Hospice focuses on allowing the patient and family to experience emotional and spiritual support and easing them in processing of grief.
Hospice and palliative care both focus on the philosophy of holistic medicine because it approaches health by addressing the body and mind as a whole. Holistic medicine addresses everything that makes up one’s well being, which includes:
- Social Well being
Hospice care provides care to both the patient and family. It comes with the understanding that we are all connected and in order to treat the patient, we must also treat the family. Hospice is a philosophy that focuses on the ideology and philosophy of embracing life, living it to its fullest and accepting eventual death. Care goes beyond physical health and also encompasses mental, emotional and spiritual health. Hospice care is a process that coordinates the care of a loved one and their family through the end of life journey. Because of this, hospice care doesn’t just end when the patient passes away, it continues through the bereavement process through emotional and spiritual support.
Let’s discuss some of the misconceptions that are commonly thought of regarding hospice. There is a notion that hospice care is the result of one giving up on life, although that is far from it. Care is rather shifted to focus on holistic forms of medicine, and trying things that are outside of the normal scope of medicine. Hospice is very well known to try alternative methods to treat, including non medical methods to address patient needs. This is because there is more emphasis on enhancing the quality of life through alleviating pain and symptoms. This alleviation of suffering improves quality of life, improves patient and family well being and as a result usually ends up prolonging life.
The decision to shift to hospice care usually occurs with the advice of the doctor, healthcare professionals and most importantly the wishes of the patient and family. The process takes multiple important steps before a patient is completely moved into hospice care. It is important that hospice is not designed to hasten the dying process, which is a very common misconception. Hospice care is supportive of the end of life journey with focus on quality of life and comfort within the bounds of the natural dying process. Because of this extra medical attention, increasing support, increased spiritual and social well-being, patients placed in hospice may exceed past the life expectancy of a patient that isn’t under hospice care.
Another misconception is that hospice is only for elderly. Although hospice care primarily accounts for mostly older adult patients, it is available to all ages as long as a physician has deemed it appropriate. Hospice care is not only available in hospitals or hospice facilities but also in homes, nursing homes, and assisted living which allows the patient to be comfortable wherever they call home.
Patients can be admitted and discharged from hospice care depending on their overall condition. If a patient’s health improves at during their time in hospice care, the patient may be discharged. This constitutes that patient has improved enough that the patient will benefit from traditional medical care. Your hospice team will discuss this with you further if your loved one is improving. Yes, this happens and it happens often. The extra attention patients receive while on hospice allows them to finally get the close medical supervision they needed to turn the corner. The patient can also choose to be taken off of hospice care at any time for any reason. After all, this is your care and if for any reason you change your mind, it’s fine. Yes, it happens, and is perfectly normal. A patient may come off hospice care for a short period of time to address a non hospice condition and then get readmitted to hospice as well.
Hospice care provides numerous support systems that patients and their families may require in the emotional period between life and death. Part of the purpose of hospice is to also provide support and treatment for caregivers, friends, and family.
Identifying grief and depression can help prevent others and ourselves from slipping down a rabbit hole. It is important to be aware of oneself and others during the process of grief. Grief can have many faces, a person may display emotions various emotions. This spectrum of emotions can range from: withdrawal, loneliness, sadness, to anger, irritability, and disbelief. It can trigger depression and this can persist over time when ignored. Part of the purpose of hospice is to help process this grief and emotions. Hospice Chaplains and Social Workers are trained counselors in grief and remain available to the patient and family as needed. The support continues for a year or longer after a patient’s passing to continue to support the family.
Hospice care was designed to support medical and non-medical needs of a patient as well as the family. The hospice team become a second family, available to you and your loved one 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When you don’t know what to do, where to go, what to think, how to move forward, the hospice team will always be there to hold your hand, give you a shoulder to cry on and point you in the direction we need to go. We are in this journey together, as we are now part of each other’s families.