The subject of Hospice came up at a recent support group meeting and I thought I would expound a little further here in the newsletter.
Hospice is a specialized program that provides care and support to patients (and their families) as they enter the advanced stages of a life limiting illness. Many people think of hospice as a program for people dying of cancer, but in fact, hospice can provide care for people with any number of terminal conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, stroke, kidney disease, pulmonary disease, and many more. The goal of hospice treatment is comfort as opposed to cure. And that treatment could be available to you in your home, in an assisted living or nursing home, or at a specialized Hospice care center, like Kline Hospice House in Frederick.
Why choose hospice? The medical staff from hospice are specially trained in palliative (comfort) care and pain management…meaning they know a whole lot about how to keep people comfortable in their final months of life. Remember that your regular doctor has been trained to diagnose and cure and might not be a specialist in what to do when there is no cure. The hospice staff do, and they will work closely with your doctor to help get you or your loved one the medicines or treatments that might make you most comfortable. In addition to medical staff like doctors and nurses, hospice also has incredible social workers and chaplains who can spend time with you and your loved one to process the changes that are taking place, prepare for the future, and make peace with the past. Hospice may include nursing aides to help with personal care or volunteers to provide a hand to hold or an ear to listen. In my own experience, one of the most wonderful things that hospice provided was a knowledgeable caring voice at the other end of the phone in the middle of the night. Hospice is knowing that you aren’t alone, and that you can get through this very difficult time. Hospice is also there after, continuing with that special support and care to the family.
When do you know it is time to consider hospice…when life expectancy becomes measured in months and not years. Obviously no one has a crystal ball to predict, so talk to your doctor, visit the hospice website (http://www.hospiceoffrederick.org/) or call their information line and ask questions (240-566-3030). Look sooner rather than later, before a crisis occurs. It may not be time yet, but when it is time, you’ll be ready. You will have had your questions answered, and will hopefully have had the time to prepare yourself to enter in to this final part of the journey of life.
Well, none of us is ever really prepared, but with the support of the hospice team, you’ll be a little stronger, a little more ready. Of course, you have our support too. Please call us if you have any questions or would like more information.
Christina Forbes, LGSW from the Daybreak Newsletter 6/2011