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What Is Hospice? And Why Is It Important for Pain Management?

What Is Hospice Care?

Hospice care provides compassionate care for people in the last stages of incurable diseases. The purpose of hospice care is to provide comfort and relief in the last months and days of their journey. Hospice care professionals do not cure or treat diseases; instead, they treat a person’s symptoms and address pain management to improve their quality of life. They also work to include family members and caregivers in decisions that affect the patient’s comfort and care. A team of professionals works together to ensure the person’s last days are as comfortable as possible while being surrounded by their loved ones. 


What’s the Difference Between Hospice and Palliative Care?

Oftentimes hospice and palliative care will be used in the same context, but it can be helpful to understand the difference between the two. Palliative care, which can also be referred to as supportive care, symptom management or comfort care, can be given separately from hospice and aims to control pain and problems for those who are experiencing serious but not life-threatening illnesses. For instance, those undergoing cancer treatment may be given palliative care to address the side effects of the treatments like nausea, nerve pain, and shortness of breath. Hospice care is about easing pain and also helping families prepare for the death of their loved ones. Palliative care can be included in hospice care but is usually just one part of the overall hospice program.  


What’s Included in Hospice Care?

While you can choose what you’d like to include in your hospice care plan, all hospice providers must offer certain services. These services can be adapted to fit your needs and are designed to provide comfort to the patient and their family. According to the American Cancer Society, these are a few of the support services included in hospice care:


Home care and inpatient hospice care

Most times hospice care is centered in the home, where the patient and family would feel most comfortable. However, there might be times where you need to receive care in the hospital, long-term care facility, or an inpatient hospice center. The same team providing you care at home can stay involved in your care no matter where you are. 


Spiritual care

Spiritual care can look different for each individual. Spiritual care will depend on your own unique needs and desires. This could include helping you talk about death, assisting you with saying goodbye to loved ones or supporting you with planning a ceremony or funeral. 


Family meetings 

Part of hospice care is to provide education and support for the patient’s family as they come to terms with the loss of their loved one. Often, a hospice nurse or social worker will schedule regular meetings to help keep families informed on the patient’s condition and what to expect moving forward. These meetings provide an opportunity to ask questions, share feelings, and create a plan for the future. 


Coordination of care

A hospice care team will coordinate all aspects of care to be provided anytime, 24/7. This team ensures the patient and family members are informed and know who to ask when they have questions or concerns. Care is always available. 


Respite care

Many times family members or friends serve as caregivers for their loved ones. Hospice provides them with a break or respite care. This provides an opportunity for caregivers to recharge and attend to their own needs, even if it’s just to rest. 


Bereavement care

After a loved one passes, the hospice care team will work with the family and friends to guide them through the grieving process. This can include phone calls, visits, support groups, and therapy with a trained professional. 


Who Makes Up a Hospice Team?

A hospice team is made up of professionals who provide holistic and medical support to give comfort and peace to those preparing for the end of life. According to the Mayo Clinic, a hospice care team will usually include:


  • Medical staff. A primary care doctor and hospice doctor will oversee the medical needs of the person receiving hospice care. Nurses will either come to your loved one’s home or inpatient facility to provide care. Nurses are usually responsible for coordinating the hospice care team. Home health aides will provide extra support for routine activities like eating, dressing, and bathing. 
  • Spiritual counselors. Depending on a person’s religious and spiritual beliefs, chaplains, priests, lay ministers, or other spiritual counselors will help guide the patient and their families throughout the hospice journey. 
  • Social workers. Social workers provide counseling and referrals to support groups. They also act as an advocate for a patient’s physical, spiritual and emotional needs. 
  • Pharmacists. Hospice care is focused on providing comfort to a patient in their last months and days. Pharmacists are included in hospice care teams to provide medication oversight and suggest the most effective ways to relieve symptoms and control pain. 
  • Volunteers. Many hospice care teams include volunteers who provide respite care, companionship or help with transportation or other needs such as preparing meals. 
  • Therapists. Other medical professionals such as speech, physical and occupational therapists can be included on a care team to provide therapy when needed. 
  • Bereavement counselors. Trained counselors offer comfort, support, and guidance to family members after the death of a loved one.  


Benefits of Hospice Care

Hospice is a wonderful way to prioritize and coordinate the needs and wishes of a patient and their loved ones during a distressing time. Death can be a painful and difficult journey. However, hospice care can provide comfort and support to those who need it most. Here are some of the benefits of choosing hospice care for your loved one:


Provides a comfortable environment 

While hospice care can be given in a hospital, it can also be given in the comfort of one’s home. This offers a degree of normalcy and comfort in a family environment. The focus of hospice care is to provide a sense of calm and quiet, which can often be challenging when in the hospital. 


Provides a comprehensive plan 

With hospice care, all the immediate and future needs are taken care of by the hospice team. Families don’t have to worry about caregiving, medication, transportation, therapy, or even everyday tasks like feeding and bathing their loved ones. Hospice relieves loved ones of caregiving roles, allowing them to connect and support each other as cherished family and friends. 


Offers unique and individual support 

Hospice care is designed to be exactly what you need during the ordeals that accompany the end of life. It eases family anxiety and allows family members to rest in-between visits. In addition, care can be customized to fit the patient’s needs.


Lessens financial burdens 

Medical bills can be overwhelming, but paying for hospice doesn’t have to be a burden. Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurances help cover the cost of hospice care to make it accessible for most people. It’s important to check with your insurance provider to see what elements of hospice care are included in your plan. 


Planning for Hospice at Maplewood Senior Living 

Losing a loved one is a difficult journey. However, hospice care can provide comfort and support throughout the process. At Maplewood Senior Living, we’re honored to provide hospice care to our residents and their loved ones. To learn more about our hospice care teams, or to visit our communities, please contact us. 

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