Greetings one and all! I hope you are doing well and loving life. Once again, I invite you to take a deep breath, pour a cup of coffee or hot tea, and relax. Since November is National Hospice and Palliative Care month, it’s a perfect time to talk about a HOPEful approach to end-of-life care—hospice. If you are like the majority of people in our country, you probably don’t recognize HOPE in HOsPicE. Having worked as a hospice and palliative care educator for many years, I can imagine the look of angst on your face right now and the questions forming on your lips. Hospice? HOPEful? Seriously? My greatest challenge when speaking about hospice has always been and will always be overcoming the fear generated by preconceived notions about hospice care that are predicated on misinformation. So, I would like to set the record straight and paint a different picture of hospice care—a picture that offers you HOPE at the end of life.
Perhaps the best way to start this conversation is by defining palliative and hospice care. Palliative care is the overarching philosophy and model of care that acknowledges many medical conditions are not curable. However, care is always possible. Hospice is a type of palliative care reserved for persons with a terminal illness, deemed to have less than six months to live. Both palliative and hospice care utilize an interdisciplinary approach to care (teams comprised of doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, etc.) designed to serve the patient and associated family members with all aspects of care (physical, cognitive, emotional, spiritual, and psychosocial). Sounds like a fabulous model for medical care, right?
So, why are so many people afraid of hospice? I have posed this question to countless people over the past fifteen years. The various responses reflect two fundamental perceptions of hospice. First, hospice equals death. Since we live in a death-averse society, we avoid discussing death and the reality of our mortality. We are scared to death of death! Consequently, our fear of death inhibits our ability to embrace the benefits of hospice care. Secondly, hospice means there is no HOPE—the diagnosis is terminal. For patients and family members, it is often difficult to accept that there are no curative options. They refuse to give up HOPE, so they refuse hospice care. These common misperceptions of hospice prevent many people from accessing a potentially beneficial source of care at the end of life.
Granted, hospice is a model of care reserved for persons with a terminal diagnosis. There is no HOPE for cure. However, that doesn’t mean the situation is HOPEless. Instead, hospice professionals work with patients and family members to develop a collaborative plan of care infused with all kinds of HOPE:
the HOPE to be at home
the HOPE to be in the company of beloved family and friends
the HOPE for effective pain and symptom management
the HOPE for compassionate, caring companions
the HOPE for knowledgeable, skilled health care professionals
the HOPE to focus on living until the conclusion of the journey
Based on my personal and professional experiences of hospice, I can honestly say that hospice is all about HOPE! Recognizing the reality of the situation, the hospice approach to care focuses on how a person chooses to live. Consequently, hospice is a life-affirming, HOPEful model of care. There is no reason to fear hospice. Instead, I encourage you to embrace this compassionate approach to care.
I invite you to learn more about hospice and palliative care by exploring the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (www.nhpco.org) and the Hospice Foundation of America (www.hospicefoundation.org) websites. Knowledge is power. By understanding the available options related to end-of-life care, you can make informed decisions for yourself and your loved ones. A blessing indeed.
I look forward to the ongoing conversation. If you have specific questions or concerns related to your caregiving experience, I would love to hear from you. Until the next posting, I wish you and yours countless blessings…jane
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