What is hospice and how can it help people?
Hospice is not a place; it is a philosophy of care. Care is usually provided in a patient’s home, but can be provided in any environment in which the patient resides – it might be a nursing home, assisted living or a residential care facility. Hospice is the most appropriate treatment option when expert symptom management that may include physical, emotional and spiritual support becomes the goal for someone with a life-limiting condition. The decision to receive hospice care does not mean that the patient or their loved ones are giving up. What it does mean is that they have chosen to have the time that does remain, and we never know how long that may be, to be lived with as much comfort and dignity as possible.
Who provides hospice care?
Hospice is provided by a team of experts that includes:
- A medical director.
- Home health aides.
- Social workers.
- Spiritual support, perhaps a chaplain or pastor.
During phases of a patient’s illness, they may need more nursing care and other times, more social work or the expertise of the entire team. The patient, their family or caregivers all play an active role in their treatment plan, keeping the primary goal, the comfort of the patient. There are so many issues when facing end-of-life decisions. The hospice team at VNA of Care New England tries to anticipate questions that may arise and provide answers and solutions in the most timely and appropriate manner, while recognizing that no two situations are the same.
What if someone is just not ready to go on hospice?
At VNA of Care New England, we work hard to customize our services to meet the needs of our patients and their loved ones at different points during their illness. Perhaps they want to try one more treatment to see if it might work. We understand and respect these decisions and therefore, offer what is called a Palliative Care Program. Palliative care focuses on relief of pain, stress and other debilitating symptoms of serious illness. The goal is to help provide the best possible quality of life for patients and their families while they work to make medical decisions and determine, along with their physician, the best course of treatment that is consistent with their goals and wishes. Members of the VNA of Care New England hospice team also provide palliative care, so that if, and when, the patient elects to receive hospice, they are familiar with the staff and have developed a relationship based on trust and mutual understanding.
Is hospice care only for patients with cancer?
No. Hospice is actually an appropriate treatment option for many different conditions that may include advanced cardiac disease such as congestive heart failure, pulmonary conditions such as chronic lung disease or patient’s with dementia as well as a variety of other diagnoses. Any patient with a life-limiting condition may benefit from hospice.
Who is eligible to receive hospice care?
Hospice care is available to patients who have elected to no longer seek curative treatment and have a prognosis of six months or less, as determined by their physician, if their disease takes its normal course.