Why Hospice? Why Now?

By Cindy Henderson

 Cindy Henderson, BSN, RN, CHPN - Director, Acclaim Hospice and Palliative Care Cindy Henderson, BSN, RN, CHPN - Director, Acclaim Hospice and Palliative Care

Hospice is a word that many people do not like to hear. They automatically, and naturally, equate the word with “dying.” The reality of life is that one day we will all face our own mortality. Hospice is a philosophy of care that supports those facing life-limiting illnesses. When cure is no longer possible and comfort care is desired, hospice can help people have a safe and comfortable journey as they pass from this life into the next. When hospice is recommended, we encourage people to think not about dying but about “living until you die.” Hospice is there to help provide for a safe and comfortable journey for the patient, and to help their loved ones go on living after they die.

So what is hospice? Hospice is comfort/palliative care that supports the patients and their loved ones in improving quality of life and assisting in meeting end-of-life goals. Hospice is intermittent care that provides for the physical, emotional, psycho social and spiritual needs of the patient and his/her family. We become the teachers of care in support of the caregivers, in order to enable the patient to remain in their own environment as long as possible, even until death. The nurses are experts in pain and symptom management. They assess and intervene to manage physical symptoms so that the social worker and spiritual care provider can assist the patient and family in doing the actual work of dying. Being at peace emotionally and spiritually not only enables a person to let go, but assists the bereaved in their grief journey.

Hospice neither hastens nor prolongs death. There is a spirit in hospice that values life and affirms death, not as something morbid, but as another event of human life which can be honored and valued. New research validates that hospice saves Medicare dollars and that those receiving hospice care actually live longer than those who do not receive hospice care for their terminal illness.

Hospice is often misperceived as the component of care that comes in during the last few days of life. This is most unfortunate for the patient and the family, as it denies both of them opportunities for improved quality of life and the ability to complete unfinished end of life tasks.

People are eligible for hospice care if they have a life expectancy of six months or less, if the illness runs its normal course. When people are referred to hospice at an appropriate time, relationships can be formed and opportunities arise for completion of goals, healing of relationships and the making of memories. Everyone has a “bucket list!” At Acclaim Hospice and Palliative Care, we have worked diligently to complete those bucket list items and improve quality of life for those receiving our care.

Examples of this include:
1. Assisting a pilot to go on one last flight
2. Enabling a lady to ride in a red Corvette
3. Providing for a police chief to go on a final ride in the city cruiser
4. Assisting a husband to take his bride out for a long overdue anniversary dinner (in a limousine, no less!), or
5. Simply writing a letter to a loved one or baking a cake.

We have seen families reconcile. We have assisted at baptisms and weddings. It truly is about quality of life! We can best support this when we have the time to develop trusting relationships and learn about their often untold desires. When a cure is no longer possible, when decline continues to occur, there is an option that can make this difficult time in life not only bearable, but good. That option is hospice care.

Cindy Henderson, BSN, RN, CHPN - Director, Acclaim Hospice and Palliative Care