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Embracing End of Life Decisions With Hospice Care

By Daniel @ LivingSenior - July 12, 2011

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To fully complete the circle of life means at some point that we will all have to deal with death. This can come in the form of unexpected occurrences or with a debilitating medical condition where there is no hope. When end-of-life can be predicted within the boundaries of a medical certainty many families will turn the hospice care for their loved one. This is a dignified and compassionate approach to these final stages of a person's life. As opposed to experiencing the end-of-life alone and in a sterile environment hospice care provides a nurturing atmosphere for a family, friends and the dying loved one to make this final passage.

What is hospice care?

Official Hospice care has been around in the United States the latter part of the 1970s. According to a survey conducted by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) there were approximately 3,300 hospice care programs in operation in 2003. That number has only increased over the years. Hospice has more to do with philosophy of care then with a specific place. Typically this would mean providing an environment for people who have been diagnosed with a life expectancy of six months. The number one goal of hospice care is to ensure that the patient is as comfortable as possible and can live out their last days to the fullest extent possible. Often this will mean providing accommodations for friends and family to be part of this care.

While it is true that a patient who is enrolled in hospice care won't be getting a cure they will still have all of their physical, spiritual and emotional needs taken care of. This is a team effort that is provided by many specially trained individuals who understand the approach to this type of care.

Hospice care services

An individual's hospice care is always evolving. It can include some of the following services at any given time:

  1. Nursing Care: A registered nurse in hospice care provides the invaluable link between the patient, their physician and their family. This is the person who will be monitoring symptoms and administering medication for the patient. The nurse can also provide valuable insight as to what the patient is experiencing and what the family can expect.

  2. Social Worker: A social worker provides counseling for the family to help them access the resources they need to facilitate the hospice care. This can come in the form of assisting them apply for Medicare or Medicaid to help defray the costs.

  3. Doctor Services: At every hospice care facility there will be physicians on call who will be part of them medical team. These doctors will consult with the family physician and know exactly the parameters of the case. They can also advise the family physician as to the changing condition of the patient and make recommendations for continued care.

  4. Spiritual Counselor: This individual can provide comfort and support in matters of spirituality for the patient and their family. This is an extremely personal aspect of hospice care as it often deals with matters of faith. A person going through the end-of-life challenges can discover a reawakening of their spiritual side and could greatly benefit from the advice of spiritual counselor.

In Home Hospice

Anyone of those members of the hospice care team can also be called upon for in-home hospice care. This is when a patient has decided to live out their final days in their own home. As comforting as this might be there is also certain level of medical care and attention that still needs to be provided.

Most especially there are issues regarding the grieving process that is essential for family members to understand and embrace whether they are at home or at a hospice facility. Many folks who have gone through the hospice care experience have found it to be an uplifting and rewarding time. As painful as it is to say goodbye is certainly helpful to be surrounded by caring team of individuals.