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November is National Hospice Month

November is a time when we give thanks for our family and friends, but is also National Hospice Month. This time of year, people think more about helping others, which makes November the perfect month to raise awareness about hospice.
Hospice is a place where people can go if they have a terminal illness and are given less than six months to live. Hospice treatment focuses on reducing the severity of symptoms, rather than curing the disease. The goal of hospice is to prevent suffering and improve quality of life.
When a patient submits to hospice care, the patient and his or her family will most likely experience relief. The hospice will take care of everything related to the patient’s diagnosis. It is also a financial relief, because Medicare pays 100 percent of the cost, said Kim Woods, RN, Family First Hospice Administrator.
When someone dies who isn’t on hospice care, there is most likely a 911 call and a trip to the hospital where invasive procedures are performed. If the patient dies in the home, police officers come and the home is treated like a crime scene. This can be very stressful for the family, Woods said.
According to the largest multi-state study on end of life care in the Journal of the American Medical Association, authors report “woefully inadequate care for both dying persons and their families.” Although people are living longer, most people will die as a result of a chronic, terminal illness, and could benefit from hospice care, said Michelle Erisman, RN, BSN, Family First Hospice Liaison.
Patients who are on hospice care experience a much more peaceful death, Erisman said. Usually, funeral arrangements have already been made and the family can be present at the patient’s bedside during their passing. It is a close-knit experience.
“When a baby is born, everyone is there, so why can’t it be that way when you pass away?” Woods said. “When the time comes, we try to make it as peaceful as possible for a patient and their families.”
Hospice can care for patients with a variety of chronic illnesses. These include cancer, liver disease, kidney disease, HIV/AIDS, dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS and stroke. Patients who have debility, failure to thrive or any life-limiting disease or accident can also be on hospice care.
There are several signs of decline that can indicate the end stages of an illness, Erisman said. They are a significant decline in overall activity, frequent ER and hospital visits, frequent infections, severe bedsores, increased difficulty swallowing, uncontrolled symptoms despite treatment and shortness of breath or severe swelling despite medications and oxygen.
So that the full scope f services can provide the much-needed support and allow for a more peaceful, better ending, hospice should be called early as possible, Erisman said.
When a patient goes on hospice, a team is assigned to them, Woods said. The team includes a nurse, aide, chaplain, social worker, volunteer and doctor. Hospice can provide care in a patient’s home, nursing home or assisted living facility.
People working in hospice are often asked if the job is depressing. However, Erisman said it could be hard at times, but it is very spiritually rewarding. For most hospice volunteers, it is more a ministry than a job. Woods agreed.
“When you work for hospice, it’s really more of a calling than a job,” Woods said.
Even when a patient has a chronic illness and is given less than six months to live, there is always hope.
“There is hope for a better quality of life,” she said. “Hope for compassionate care and support and hope to be without pain. Hospice provides that hope and so much more. The longer hospice is involved, the more an individual and their family can fully experience the benefits of hospice support.”
In order to make a fully informed decision about whether or not to go on hospice care, patients or their families should ask a doctor what the prognosis of their illness is. They should also ask about the expected course of progression of the illness with and without treatment. The benefits of treatment should be weighed against the burdens of treatment. Future quality of life with and without treatment should be discussed, Erisman said. If you have a terminal illness, you should talk to your doctor about hospice, because it could greatly improve your quality of life.

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Posted by on Nov 20 2008. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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