The contemporary hospice offers a comprehensive program of care to patients and families facing a life threatening illness. Hospice is primarily a concept of care, not a specific place of care. Hospice emphasizes palliative care, rather than curing; quality rather than quantity of life. Hospice care is provided to patients who have a limited life expectancy. Although most hospice patients are cancer patients, hospices accept anyone regardless of age or type of illness. These patients have also made a decision to spend their last months at home or in a homelike setting.
Hospice care is a choice that is made to enhance life for a dying person. In hospices multi-disciplinary teams strive to offer freedom from pain, dignity, peace and calm at the end of life. Hospice affirms life and regards dying as a normal process. Hospice neither hastens nor postpones death. A person with a terminal disease may choose to die at home with the support of family, friends, and caring professionals. Hospice care emphasizes comfort measures and counseling to provide social, spiritual and physical support to the dying patient and his or her family. All hospice care is under professional medical hospice in orange county supervision. Over 90% of hospice care is provided in the patient’s home.
The physical pain arising from a terminal illness may be debilitating, frightening and dehumanizing. Hospice providers have the skills and resources to allow the person to live as pain-free, as comfortable, and as full a life as possible. In addition to providing for the physical comfort of the dying person, hospice provides social and spiritual support for the patient and his or her family. This support takes the form of time-off for the primary caregiver, personal care, nutritional counseling, pastoral counseling, grief counseling, and help with legal and funeral arrangements. Other issues that need to be considered are power of attorney arrangements, and the right to die, including voluntary euthanasia.
If you are the carer you will need to ensure that you work and communicate effectively with the patient; support the patient’s spiritual interests; assist with finalising the patient’s unfinished affairs; work alongside health professionals; work closely with family and friends and most important – to consider your own needs and feelings. You will need to support the patient’s efforts to deal with the reality of the prognosis emotionally, including attempts by the patient to protect loved ones from what is really happening.
When considering hospice care remember that the nature of dying is unique that the goal of a hospice team is to be sensitive and responsive to the special requirements of each individual and family.