What’s “the hospice approach?”
There comes a point in healthcare at which medical treatments offer little benefit and can even add to pain and discomfort. For some, it’s a time to consider “comfort care,” a choice made by the patient, along with his or her doctor and family.
Hospice is about living, about people getting access to what they need so they can have the best quality of life possible during a difficult and unpredictable time. This palliative care is what has become known as “the hospice approach.”
The goal of hospice treatment is to orchestrate a comprehensive program of care during end of life, leading to a comfortable and dignified death. Choosing hospice means that the patient has chosen to be in control and fashion day-by-day living in personal terms.
One of the great things that hospice offers is control of pain. When pain is controlled, your life “opens up” and you may be able to get back into meaningful and enjoyable pursuits—like cooking, gardening, getting breakfast with a friend, or playing with a grandchild.
In Avery and surrounding counties, Medi Home Hospice and other area hospice programs provide compassionate medical services and symptom relief under the direction of the patient’s own doctor and in the patient’s own home. Roughly three-quarters of Americans say they would choose to die at home and hospice care makes that possible.
Thinking about hospice, many people mistakenly associate it only with sorrow. In practice, most hospice experiences include times of joy, peace and heartwarming closeness. People often comment that hospice experiences, although involving a death, provide them with a deeper understanding of life.
The following overview of hospice services is in large part adapted from descriptions offered at Caring.com, an information site and a leading online destination for those seeking support as caregivers.
How does hospice care work?
Most hospice care in Avery County takes place in the patient’s home. But a patient can also receive end-of-life care in a hospital, nursing home or private facility. Which is best depends on the patient’s physical condition, the availability of a dedicated caregiver, patient and family preferences, whether or not the home is suited to providing hospice care, and accessible resources.
Hospice care isn’t necessarily continuous, and a patient may switch into and out of it as a medical condition improves or deteriorates. For example, if a patient goes into remission–a period of relief from the symptoms of an illness–hospice care can be stopped, and then resumed if symptoms recur or the condition worsens.
To qualify for most hospice care, a doctor must diagnose a patient as having a terminal illness—in other words, a medical condition that, following its natural progression, may cause death within six months or less.
The following quote by Eric Cassel, M.D. from the New England Journal of Medicine summarizes the patient-centered focus of hospice care:
Dying patients require palliative care of an intensity that rivals even that of curative efforts. Even though aggressive curative techniques are no longer indicated, professionals and families are still called on to use intensive measures that require extreme responsibility, extraordinary sensitivity and heroic compassion.
What happens in an initial hospice meeting?
During an initial meeting, hospice workers meet with the patient, the caregiver and involved family members to develop a plan of care. If care will be provided in the home, the hospice team will evaluate the location to see if special equipment is needed. That equipment may involve an elevating hospital bed, a special pad or mattress to prevent bedsores, and/or various medical supplies. The team may also look at making it easier for the patient to move about and get to favorite parts of the house.