Improving the End-of-Life Journey

Hospice Care doesn’t mean giving up…but it can mean a better quality of life for you and those you care most about.

Far too many Americans approach their end-of-life journey with inadequate palliative (comfort) support, inadequate compassion and inadequate human presence (nursing and social support) and witness. The result of these inadequacies? Both patient and their loved ones suffer needlessly. This happens because patients and their families often lack the information and understanding that will give them access to better care through Hospice…and Transitions (non-terminal/non medical) services and through various forms of symptom management.

But that need not be the case. While death is an inevitable aspect of the human condition, dying badly is not. That’s where hospice comes in. “Hospice” is both a concept and philosophy of care and an organizational form of health care delivery. Hospice services are generally offered in the home or place of residence and includes professional nursing care, personal assistance with activities of daily living, various forms of comfort therapy, dietary counseling, psychological and spiritual counseling for both patient and family, volunteer services, respite care, provision of medical drugs and devices necessary for palliative (comfort) care and family bereavement services after a patient’s death. What’s more, no one is ever turned away from Redmond-Sisters Hospice for lack of ability to pay.

Sadly, people witness or hear about dying without appropriate hospice care and they come to regard that prospect as the expected course of affairs…as something that they must come to accept. Is it any wonder that so many people have so much difficulty reconciling themselves to the incurable state of their disease or to the futility and likely burden of life-prolonging measures?

What is not surprising is that those most supportive of hospice are people who have experienced first- hand what quality end-of-life care can achieve; they understand that hospice care is not the care of “last resort.” It is not something that comes after other forms of care have been tried to the point of no return and failed. Hospice care involves much more than fast-acting pain relief medications; it has psychosocial and spiritual goals (whatever a patient’s faith or belief) and dimensions that can be met only through the building of trust, communication, and relationships that touch the self of the patient and the system of the family…not just the body. It is not for the imminently dying only, but for those wrestling with all the complex clinical and personal decisions associated with an eventually fatal illness.

What’s more hospice care does not mean the end of a trusting physician-patient relationship. It simply means a new stage in that relationship with new goals and new collaborating caregivers. Likewise, palliative care alone does not signal the end of medical treatment that might lengthen or improve the quality of life. In the case where a patient may chose palliative (comfort) care rather than hospice care Transitions services are an option. Above all, hospice and related services should not—and do not—signal the end of hope…but simply a shift of focus and the potential for a better quality of life for a patient and those he or she cares most about.