Both a service and a philosophy of care, hospice provides terminally ill patients and their families a path through the end stages of life and illness after efforts for cure and treatment have ceased. Unlike traditional approaches to medical care, hospice’s acceptance of death—and desire to alleviate the suffering that comes along with it—creates a markedly different approach and experience for the person being cared for and the person’s loved ones.
For the doctors, chaplains, social workers, care staff and nurses involved in providing hospice care, the patient’s comfort takes precedence. This mind-set creates an environment where healthcare decisions are made differently and for different reasons. From pain management to grief counseling, here is a look at seven reasons why hospice care really is different from other forms of healthcare.
Concept of Care
Hospice’s philosophy and approach to care assumes death is a natural part of life. Once more traditional forms of care have exhausted the efforts to cure and treat, a patient enters hospice to transition toward death. Without an emphasis on overcoming disease or illness, the comfort and support of the dying person and his or her family become paramount.
The concept of care involves the entire person—not just the symptoms of disease that are present. Emotional, social, spiritual and psychological support plans are offered in addition to physical and medical support.
Whole Person Approach
Often, when a person is sick, their illness is approached according to its location and type. What kind of cancer is it? Where is it located? What is the prognosis? What type of diabetes does the patient have? And so on. In more traditional forms of medical care, the illness is treated as something that is separate from the patient.
Hospice takes a radically different approach. While it is true a patient in hospice is dying and the patient is dying of a particular issue, the hospice care worker does not limit the needs of the patient to their physical needs only.
Hospice works toward the comfort and alleviation of suffering for the entire individual, and with that goal in mind, their team addresses emotional, social, psychological and spiritual needs alongside physical ones.
The goal of hospice care is not to hasten death or to prolong life. Instead, hospice workers seek to provide care that aims at a particular knowledge that is unique even within medical care. Namely: the dying process.
Within this aspect of particular knowledge, hospice workers seek to manage pain effectively, offer emotional support, prepare for end of life issues—including preparation for burial—and other specialized areas of care that are usually outside the scope of more traditional medicine.
Not only is there a team of people working alongside a hospice patient and her family and loved ones, but that team functions as a unit. Hospice teams are team-oriented. Because the emphasis is on the whole person, each member of the team understands his job relies on and supports the job of his other team members.
Doctors work alongside chaplains to address spiritual concerns that may be causing physical symptoms. Social workers and grief counselors work together to support grieving family members. Care is provided in as integral a manner as possible.
One of the hallmarks of hospice is its knowledge of pain management. For many people who are dying, pain is a never-ending struggle that can reduce the quality of one’s last days dramatically. Hospice—because they do not concern themselves with disease treatment or cure—is able to work toward a goal of managing pain that would seem radical in a more traditional setting, allowing for a more comfortable patient.
Bereavement and Counseling
Hospice provides a number of different bereavement and counseling services to patients and their families before the patient dies. After death, hospice continues to offer counseling and grief services to the family and friends for a time. Death’s effect on a family or community lasts far beyond a funeral, and hospice seeks to help the family transition as well.
Efforts Toward and For the Family
One of the most unique aspects in hospice care is its emphasis on the family and loved ones of the patient, and this emphasis is not by accident. To help a patient go through the process of dying with as much peace and comfort as possible, the needs of those they love and the issues that may exist within family units and relationships need to be addressed.
Hospice takes an approach to medical care that, in many ways, sits outside mainstream medical care in the United States. From its emphasis on a patient’s family to its insistence on treating the individual’s whole spectrum of needs, hospice patients receive a specialized and holistic kind of care that is unlike any other.
Photo Credit By: delawarehospice.org