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March 14, 2016 Hospice

What and Who is Hospice For?

Death is an inevitable part of life but many people are hesitant to discuss end of life issues. A recent report by the Pew Research Center found that 27% of adults have not given much thought to end of life medical treatment preferences. Hospice is a specialized type of medical care which focuses on improving and maintaining the quality of life for those who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. A holistic approach of treatment is used to achieve these goals. Physical, emotional, spiritual and social aspects of the patient are addressed during the course of care. A medical doctor makes a determination that a patient likely has six months or less to live as criteria for hospice services.

Hospice services may be provided in a home setting, nursing home, hospice facility or hospital. This type of care is very individualized for the person receiving services. A patient can be discharged from hospice care if their condition improves.

The Origin of Hospice Care

Dr. Cicely Saunders is credited with pioneering modern hospice services. This nurse, social worker and physician began working with terminally ill patients in 1948. She founded the first modern hospice called St. Christopher’s Hospice. Prior to Saunders approach to the care of the dying, family and churches primarily fulfilled this role. Dr. Saunders emphasized a multi-disciplinary approach to caring for the terminally ill with an emphasis on using regular dosing of medicine to control pain. She also extended care to the loved ones of those dying. Inpatient facilities and home care agencies eventually adopted the hospice model founded by Dr. Sauder. Medicare added a hospice benefit in 1984. Most hospice agencies follow Medicare guidelines when administering hospice-related care.

Hospice Eligible Patients

Many people associate hospice care with adults who are terminally ill with cancer. There are many additional diseases which may qualify individuals for hospice services. End-stage heart, lung or kidney diseases as well as Alzheimer’s disease are examples. Children may also receive hospice services.

Loved Ones

There are many people impacted by a diagnosis of a terminal illness. Loved ones, along with hospice patients, are supported by hospice services. They are provided with emotional and spiritual support such as grief and loss counseling. Hospice nurses and volunteers provide extra caregiving assistance providing loved ones with a break from these duties. Hospice professionals are typically on-call 24 hours to address the needs of their patients and families.

Hospice Services

Numerous services are provided to those receiving hospice care. These services vary by agency but may include:

  • Visits by hospice professionals such as physicians, nurses, nursing assistants, social workers and chaplains or other spiritual advisors
  • Medications to control pain and other symptoms related to their condition
  • Medical equipment such as a hospital bed, wheelchair or supplemental oxygen
  • Physical, occupational or speech therapy services
  • Dietary consultations

If you have a loved one in hospice, we know it can be a rough road. You don't have to go through it alone, there are many dallas support groups that can help you get through this rough time.