When the doctor mentioned hospice as an option for Elaine Bleiden’s mother, Bleiden was surprised. “I was totally blown away, as I realized this is what end of life is like,” remembers Bleiden, who lives in Northridge, CA.
For many, hospice is a frightening word because it is associated with end of life. But really the confusion is due to not understanding what hospice is and how it can help people who are sick and their families.
Often, the biggest myth surrounding hospice care is that the family has given up and hospice is a final surrender. But hospice is a way for people to prioritize the wishes of the patient and the family. It is specialized care and support that works to create ease and comfort for the patient and the family.
Here are some of the benefits of choosing hospice care for your loved ones:
1. It Offers a Familiar Environment
While hospice is sometimes provided in nursing homes and hospitals, it can also be provided in the comfort of the patient’s home or in a hospice facility. The focus is on finding a place that is calm, quiet and very different from the typical stressful buzzing of a hospital. Hospice care is a collaborative effort between the patient, the family, the hospice team and the doctor to impart a care regimen that benefits everyone.
“Research has shown that people would prefer to die in comfortable or familiar surroundings rather than in an institutional setting,” says Spencer Levine, vice president of programs at the Hospice Foundation of America. “Hospice will come to the patient wherever he or she calls home.”
2. It Provides a Comprehensive Plan
The key to providing comfortable final days is a comprehensive plan that involves a team of medical and health care professionals, who address all aspects of a patient’s illness with importance on controlling and reducing pain and discomfort.You may be working with doctors, nurses, therapists, health care aides, clergy, social workers, etc.
“Hospice workers have been there before — many times,” says Lauren Sommer, LCSW, a bereavement specialist at Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care. “Families find the experience they bring to the table invaluable as they navigate end-of-life care.”
3. It Offers Personalized Care and Support
Hospice care eases family anxiety, as hospice professionals are on-call 24-hours, allowing the family to rest in between visits. They can offer patients what they need, from companionship to a listening ear to a favorite food.
“There were nurses and CNAs that would come and check on my mom,” relays Bleiden. “During the last four weeks of her life, hospice helped me make sure she was covered.”
4. It Gives Patients a Sense of Dignity
Hospice offers a chance to die with dignity. Hospice patients aren’t hooked up to loud machines, aren’t poked or prodded hourly by medical personnel and won’t undergo invasive procedures to prolong life.
5. It Respects a Patient’s Wishes
This is an essential element of hospice care. By placing a loved one in hospice, families can focus on spending time with the patient and not dealing with the red tape and extensive procedures of a hospital environment.
“With physical, emotional and spiritual pain addressed, patients and loved ones can spend the precious time remaining concentrating on things that are important to them,” Levine adds.
6. It Lessens Financial Burdens
For many families, hospital bills can be overwhelming. Under hospice supervision, out-of-pocket costs are significantly reduced and Medicare, Medicaid and private insurances help cover hospice care. Check with your individual insurance to see what elements of hospice care are covered.
7. It Provides Family Counseling
Guidance and support are a necessary piece of the puzzle. Hospice helps families deal with the range of emotions that surround this difficult time, offering guidance from social workers and chaplains. In addition, hospice will also offer the family bereavement and grief counseling after their loved one has passed and help with some of the after-death tasks that need to be completed.
“We asked the chaplain from hospice to officiate at my mom’s funeral, as she was the one that was with us for those last few weeks,” notes Bleiden. “She really did so amazingly,”
For Bleiden and her family, choosing hospice care for her mother was a calming and successful experience during a heartbreaking time. Bleiden was pleased with the care and the program and knows she made the right decision for her mother.
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Jennifer Geisman is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles.