Hospice – friend or foe?
A blogger friend, Terry, is preparing for her beloved brother Al, to move home from an Assisted Living Facility. Al suffers from Parkinson’s disease and his general health condition is extremely precarious. Terry blogged: “I finally heard nothing from the phone. I had done everything I could find to do trying not to have to make the dreaded call to Hospice. I decided not to use the Hospice here in our county. I was very disappointed in them with the lack of care they gave to my father.” http://terry1954.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/al-and-hospice-meet/
Vic wrote this on her Face Book page on the 15th of May 2011… “Today Hospice came to access my Grandfather… They dripped him & made him comfortable. He has lost his swallowing reflex, sleeps most of the day, is completely bedridden & can barely talk… The suddenness of his deterioration is very difficult to comprehend. Could you all say a big prayer for my Gramps and especially my Mom, who lost her best friend of 25 yrs., age 51 to a heart attack last Tuesday. My Mother is one of the strongest, bravest people I know… How do we say goodbye, how do I take my Boys to say their Goodbyes tomorrow, how do we accept that this incredible man has such little time left regardless of the fact that we all know that its best for him. How can I be strong for my babies when my heart breaks all over again, every day when I see him…? Especially my Eunice Friends will all remember how desperately my Gramps and Gran loved and spoilt me and how VERY MUCH they meant to me… I don’t want to live without him even though I realise that that is extremely selfish, but I love my Grandfather so desperately, it’s not fair… All I ask for is compassion… Compassion for Gramps and my Mother… Thank you to everyone for all your love & support through everything… Love Vic…”
I am a great believer in the services that Hospices offer – worldwide. Hospice cared for my Dad in the last week of his life and for Vic the last 5.5 months of her life. My experience was positive.
The hospice movement was started in the 1950’s in London by Dame Cicely Saunders, and the first hospice facility opened in London in 1967. Seven years later the United States opened their first hospice facility in 1974. In America the hospice movement has blossomed and hospice now serves 44.6% of patient deaths. Unfortunately, the median length of service for hospice patients is only 19.1 days, which means many patients did not receive the benefit of hospice care until the end of a difficult illness. In my country only 5% of the dying actually have access to Hospice services.
The original idea of hospice is that once curative treatments are no longer effective, a patient enrols in hospice to receive comfort care. In our culture of “fighting” death illness that should be addressed through ongoing decisions about the risk and benefit of interventions gets turned into a battle that should be won or lost. No one wants to be a loser, so the patient is reluctant to quit curative care until there is absolutely no hope. Many physicians are geared the same way, and their desire to give hope and “beat” disease results in a reluctance to call in hospice even when they know the situation is bleak.
Hospice care is for a terminally ill person who’s expected to have six months or less to live. This doesn’t mean that hospice care will be provided only for six months, however. Hospice care can be provided as long as the person’s doctor and hospice care team certify that the condition remains life-limiting.
The benefits of hospice and palliative care
Research published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found that terminally-ill patients who received hospice care lived on average 29 days longer than those who did not opt for hospice near the end of life.
Source: National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
Hospice care providers offer specialized knowledge and support at the end of life just as obstetricians and midwives lend support and expertise at the start of life. Hospice can reduce anxiety in both the terminally ill patient and his or her family by helping them make the most of the time remaining and achieve some level of acceptance.
When terminally ill patients, who are often already in a weakened physical and mental state, make the decision to receive hospice and palliative care instead of continued curative treatment, they avoid the dangers of over-treatment. In-home care from a hospice team often means the patient receives greater monitoring than he or she would in a hospital. In addition to focusing on the physical health and comfort of a patient, hospice care also focuses on the emotional needs and spiritual well-being of the terminally ill and their loved ones.
The above is all well documented facts. Yet, when a family is faced with that terrible decision to call in Hospice, it is a deeply emotional decision. The phone call is a terrifying telephone call. This is evident from Vic and Terry’s posts…..
It made me realise what a massive challenge lies ahead of us in Stepping Stone Hospice. We need to educate the community. We need to dispel the fear of and for Hospice.