Facing Death Together: Finding Comfort in Conversation

by -

Facing death with hospice

Thinking about the end of life can often reveal anxiety, fear, and emotional pain. Coming to terms with our mortality when faced with a difficult diagnosis is a hard step that no one is ever fully prepared to take. What can you do to focus on the remaining time you have? That is exactly where hospice can serve its role.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal disease or condition that is no longer responding to treatment, making any choice can be difficult. Hospice is here to provide the support and care to help you and your loved ones through this time of need. While you may not know exactly how much time you have, hospice offers you the ability to make the most of it, by spending it with the ones you love and living it on your terms.

What is Hospice?

All too often, people misunderstand what hospice is and what it can do for its patients. Hospice is a philosophy of care dedicated to serving end-of-life patients and their families with compassion and dignity. A holistic approach, hospice addresses the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the patient during the last six months of life while also providing support for the entire family, even following death. It is not simply a focus on the end of life, but to celebrate and honor it in every moment.

Hospice care teams are made up of skilled and caring nurses, physicians, social workers, aides, bereavement coordinators, chaplains and volunteers who provide individuals with a plan of care to reach their specific goals. Care is focused on what is important to the patient and family, understanding their needs, respecting their wishes, and promoting the best possible quality of life.

Hospice care focuses on providing comfort by controlling symptoms and managing pain, and when initiated as early as possible, is able to achieve results that can benefit the entire family for the maximum amount of time. Because individuals respond to treatment in many different ways, alternative forms of therapy are available to provide what traditional medicine cannot.

Overcoming Negative Connotations toward Hospice

Sadly, hospice is often misunderstood or even feared as a place to go to die. Hospice isn’t actually a place at all. Hospice care is most often provided in the patient’s place of residence - either his or her own home, a family member’s home, assisted living facility or nursing home. Hospice can also be provided in a hospital or dedicated inpatient hospice facility, often referred to as a hospice house.

Many people tend to view hospice from the outside looking in. Unless you have experienced hospice care in your own family, it can be hard to understand the many benefits of its care. For family members, hospice may represent the comfort and peace of mind during a difficult time. For patients, it can mean support and guidance during an uncertain journey. Once the fear associated with hospice subsidies, one can understand the importance of this compassionate care.

The first step to overcoming negative feelings is to learn the truth about hospice care. Here are some common misconceptions and the truths about these hospice myths.

Hospice means you are giving up.

Contrary to popular belief, hospice is not for giving up. It’s about doing everything possible to live life to its full capacity as long as possible while receiving care and support.

Hospice means you are going to die.

While hospice is intended for terminal patients, this doesn't mean each hospice patient is going to die while in hospice care. Patients that enter early and are properly cared for can live much longer than their original diagnosis.

Hospice is only for the immediate end of life.

Patients suffering from degenerative conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), heart failure, dementia, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig's Disease”, can use hospice care. The earlier patients with these types of life-limiting conditions enter hospice care, the better their chances are for stabilizing and managing illness, and maximizing their time.

You can only receive hospice care for six months.

Patients who have a projected life expectancy of six months or less can be referred to hospice care by their physicians. If the patient lives past the initial six months, their physician can refer them to an additional six months of hospice care as needed. There is no time limit on the length of hospice care one can receive.

Hospice care is only provided in a hospital.

Hospice care can be provided in the comfort of your home or assisted living community surrounded by the ones you love. Care is available 24 hours a day. Sometimes a patient’s symptoms require more intensive treatment than can be provided at home, and it is then important to consider inpatient care.

Hospice is just for the patients

Caregivers and families also benefit greatly from the physical and emotional support of the hospice team and the bereavement support services offered. Social workers, chaplains and volunteers can provide assistance, respite care and guidance to loved ones who need it.

Hospice means I can’t keep my doctor.

Hospice allows your primary physician to continue administering care as he or she sees fit. The hospice team will work closely with your physician to ensure quality of life for each patient.

Start the Conversation Now

When faced with a life-threatening or terminal illness, there are some conversations that must simply not be avoided. Talking about hospice as early as possible will help to ease the physical and emotional pain you will encounter throughout your remaining time. Understand that you have the ability to live your life to its fullest, even in the face of death. While the obstacles of death can be overwhelming, let hospice give you the opportunity to quality time with family and loved ones as long as possible.

If you have any other questions concerning hospice care, don’t hesitate to reach out to the UnityPoint at Home Hospice Care Team. Equipped with a staff of compassionate and caring experts, we are here to provide you the quality of life you deserve.