Hospice (from the root “hospitality”) originated in medieval times. As travelers made their way from destination to destination a hospice was a place of rest and shelter. In 1948 Dame Cicely Saunders, a physician, established the first modern hospice in London. For the first time, dying patients were given specialized end of life care. Dr. Saunders introduced the hospice concept to the United States in 1963 during a visit to Yale University.
A team in conjunction manages hospice care with the patient and family. Team members include the primary care provider, hospice Medical Director, nurse, chaplain, social worker, home health aide, and specially trained volunteers. Hospice provides pain and symptom relief, emotional and spiritual support, and caregiver respite. This care can be provided wherever you call home. End of life care can be provided in a nursing home, assisted living facility, inpatient hospice, or in your home. A misconception is that hospice care is only for those with cancer. Hospice care treats those with heart disease, lung disease, liver and kidney failure, dementia, and other illnesses.
“Hospice is not about giving up or losing hope. Hospice is about comfort care.” (G. Leigh Wilkerson, RN) At some point, the treatments are no longer working and the body begins to shut down. Medical interventions no longer provide curative results. Your physician will talk with you about your care, determine your terminal status, and make a hospice referral if appropriate.
Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurances cover hospice care. After your referral, a social worker and nurse will visit you and evaluate your need for services. After their visits a personalized plan of care is developed for you and your family, involving all of the team members.
Many family and loved ones who have been served by hospice stated they wished they had accessed this benefit much sooner. One of hospice’s greatest abilities is helping patients and their loved ones understand what is happening as the person is dying. Staff is also specially trained to help loved ones manage symptoms, and cope with end of life grief. If you or someone you know can benefit from this care, please contact your health care provider or the resources listed below for help.
* Washington State Hospice & Palliative Care Organization, 866-661-3739, www.wshpco.org
* Harbors Home Health & Hospice, 800-772-1319
* Grief Support Group meets at the Hoquiam Timberland Library, every Tuesday 3-4 p.m. (Facilitated by Harbors Home Health & Hospice, no charge).
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, www.nhpco.org
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on www.hometowndebate.com 3/7/12. If you would like to respond to this story go to hometowndebate.com