by Lance Danko, Area Vice President-Hospice PruittHealth
Many people often equate hospice care as “the end” or with the thought of giving up on all hope. However, this assumption cannot be further from the truth as hospice care provides hope in many different and tangible ways. The idea that hospice care even hastens death, or often leaves patients feeling like they have nothing left to live for are common myths and misconceptions.
Hospice care is a unique and holistic type of care that involves treating the entire person. It involves addressing each patient’s physical, spiritual, and psychosocial needs. Hospice care provides a multidisciplinary team approach to high quality medical care and compassion to those with an estimated life expectancy of six months or less. This care is custom tailored to each patient’s individual needs and their wishes. Hospice care can be provided in a variety of settings including the patient’s home, an assisted living facility, a freestanding hospice center, a hospital, or a long-term care facility.
When it comes to end-of-life care increased time offers greater hope. Several research studies have proven that people receiving hospice care often live longer and enjoy an improved quality of life than those perusing aggressive treatments. “The number one complaint that we hear is the same one that is heard nationwide and that is our patients and families wish that they had begun receiving hospice services sooner,” said Lance Danko, Area Vice President with PruittHealth Hospice.
“The sooner care is initiated allows us ample time to adequately address our patient’s needs and successfully manage their symptoms so they can enjoy an improved quality of life.” Hope is also found in a collaborative approach to care. This specialized care is provided by a multidisciplinary team of experts comprised of physicians, nurses, certified nursing assistants, social workers, chaplains, and trained volunteers all working together to provide comfort care by ensuring proper pain and symptom management. Patients and their loved ones have unlimited access to care by specially trained nurses twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week when needed to address any issues or simply to answer their questions.
Another way that hospice care provides hope is through the education that they provide. By helping patients and their caregivers to better understand what the patient is experiencing and what to expect as their illness progresses, often gives great comfort and helps to alleviate any fears and concerns. Also, the hospice team is readily available to teach family members and caregivers everything they need to know in order for them to feel confident in their roles to ensure they are providing the best care possible.
Hope may also be found in the spiritual and emotional support that is available. Chaplains and Social Workers offer much needed support to patients and family members. They are available to help them resolve any issues, and to walk with them through their journeys at the end-of-life. Support, reassurance, and hope are provided to their loved ones as well, both while the patient is living and up to 13 months after their death.
Many people refer to the hospice team as “Angels” since caring and compassionate hearts are prerequisites for all team members who are called to work in this area. “Our volunteers are truly the heart of hospice,” said Danko. Volunteers are readily available to provide hope by offering social support, companionship, meaningful interactions, and caregiver relief.
Hospice care provides hope by offering often much needed financial relief. Deemed one of the most economical types of health care, hospice care is covered by most insurances as well as by Medicare and Medicaid. As an added peace of mind, all medications, treatments, and supplies, including oxygen and durable medical equipment, that are related to a person’s terminal illness are also covered under the hospice benefit.
Hospice patients may never abandon their hope for a cure, even while they prepare for whatever the future may hold. It is not uncommon for a patient to “graduate” from hospice services if they improve to a point where this type of specialized care is no longer warranted. In addition, should a promising new treatment become available, or if the patient decides to pursue an aggressive type of treatment, the hospice benefit can be revoked at any time.
Hospice care is certainly not care without hope. However, it is about changing the focus of that hope in order to make the most of the time that is left. As the founder of the modern hospice movement, Dame Cicely Saunders said, “You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die.