7 Reasons to Embrace Hospice Care

7 Reasons to Embrace Hospice Care

Why Choosing Hospice Care Improves Life and Death

“I wish we would have found hospice sooner,” my friend Katherine shared after her mother had passed away. Families express this sentiment nearly universally after a loved one has received the beautiful, tender care that is hospice.

Embrace Hospice Care

In Changing the Way We Die, authors Fran Smith and Sheila Himmel chronicle the history of hospice care and explore the growing movement towards compassionate end-of-life care afforded through hospice. They explain, “Hospice is not a place, but a philosophy about living, dying, and dignity, and a set of practices to ease suffering. It does not mean giving up. Against all expectations, hospice can open up time and emotional space for hope and healing.”

Having just finished this powerful book, I want to share a few take-aways. I hope to inspire you to embrace hospice for your loved ones, and for yourself, when the time comes.

Hospice is a mission driven approach to caring for the dying that:

  • Embraces what is possible even while experiencing limitations from a disease.
  • Values and respects the individual’s choices, heritage and traditions.
  • Honors the whole person by attending to physical, emotional, relational and spiritual well-being.
  • Cares for family members, recognizing the needs of loved ones as well as those of the patient.
  • Actively addresses symptoms and pain through palliative care in order to minimize the discomfort of dying.
  • Offers bereavement services to support loved ones through the journey and after a patient’s passing.

As hospice is a style of care, not a physical location, it can be delivered in several settings: home, nursing homes, hospitals, or specialized hospice facilities. Patients can receive hospice care for days, weeks, or even months. Although many hospice patients have a diagnosis of cancer, patients with any end-stage condition can, and do, receive hospice care. Individuals with advanced illnesses such as heart disease, lung disease, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, stroke, or kidney failure can also choose hospice services.

The Misconceptions of Hospice Care

Both physicians and family members often fear that the suggestion of hospice signals giving up the battle to overcome a disease or condition. Interestingly, many patients express relief when no longer striving to conquer a disease. Precious energy can be better invested in what matters most to the individual, whatever that may be. Some people assume hospice means the patient receives no care. This is patently false. The services offered focus on the patient’s comfort and the family’s journey instead of treatments attempting to cure a disease or extend life. Many worry that hospice is expensive. Hospice care is covered by most private insurance carriers and Medicare.

The Benefits of Hospice Care

Recognizing its many benefits can inspire you and those you love to embrace the beauty of hospice care when the time comes.

  1. The quality of life often improves in hospice care, as a patient shifts his focus to experiencing life and love as long as possible, in lieu of enduring difficult treatments, such as chemotherapy. Some patients even experience dramatic improvement and are able to re-engage in life for weeks or months.
  2. Longevity increases in many patients. Research published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found that terminally ill patients who received hospice care lived on average twenty-nine days longer than those who did not opt for hospice near the end of life.
  3. Patients embrace the available time to accomplish important goals. Many feel empowered to leave a legacy, however each patient defines it.
  4. The services provided, particularly by volunteers, affords some amount of respite for loved ones from the sheer exhaustion of caregiving.
  5. Hospice opens space for emotional, relational and spiritual healing for the patient and loved ones.The family, as a whole, can experience the sacred space of the end-of-life journey.
  6. Controlled pain, improved comfort, and the support of loved ones and hospice caregivers enable patients and families to experience a peaceful passing.
  7. Bereavement services support family members as they grieve the loss of a loved one.

Hospice not only affords a better death—if not a good death—but also improves life in myriad ways.

Sadly, 36% of hospice patients die within a week of enrollment. By the time a patient and/or loved ones agree to hospice, the patient is actively dying. Not surprisingly, those who entered hospice earlier in the trajectory of their journey, receiving hospice care for weeks or months, experienced the greatest benefit.

Choosing the right hospice provider requires thoughtful consideration. My next post, which will be published March 16th, will explore the specific services offered through hospice care and how to choose a hospice provider wisely.

QUESTION: If a loved one was—or has been—blessed to receive hospice care, would you please share your story and inspire others via social media? Please share this post with your comment.



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