Hospice care

Hospice CareThe hospice care philosophy sees death as a normal part of living. Hospice services help a dying person to be comfortable during his or her last days or hours. Hospice care is an approach that sees death as a natural part of life and does not seek to prolong life or death. Hospice services also support the family of a dying person before, during, and after the person’s death.

Does hospice care mean giving up?

Some view hospice care as giving up on getting well. Even some doctors view transferring a patient to a hospice as a sort of death sentence. However, hospice care is intended to be more than the last resort. This care is a philosophy of care completely at odds with most of the cure-focused healthcare system. The hospice care philosophy sees death as a normal part of living instead of something to always struggle against. The goal is instead to reduce the suffering involved in the dying process for both the dying person and his or her loved ones.

How hospice care began

The Sisters of Charity, an order of Roman Catholic nuns in Ireland, started the first hospice in Dublin in 1879. Hospitals at that time did not accept patients with fevers or contagious illnesses. Our Lady’s Hospice in Dublin was a refuge for the infectious, the poor, and the dying. It provided social, spiritual, and emotional support in addition to relieving patient pain, and other physical symptoms. The Sisters kept patients well nourished and comfortable in their last days, and lent their comforting presence to people who had no relatives or friends to care for them.

The modern hospice movement

The modern hospice movement began in 1967 when Dame Cicely Saunders opened St. Christopher’s Hospice in London. St. Christopher’s Hospice emphasized a multidisciplinary approach to care for the dying, and provided social, spiritual, and emotional support in addition to relieving pain and other physical symptoms. This team approach to hospice care is still used today, although most hospice patients receive care and services at home instead of in inpatient hospice facilities.

An interdisciplinary approach

Hospice care involves an interdisciplinary team of professionals. A doctor, social worker, and nurse plan and direct the care of each hospice patient. Home health aides and clergy provide additional services. Doctors make the initial referral to hospice care after consulting with the patient and any family members who are caring for the patient.

Accepting a natural process

The hospice doctors, nurses and staff are trained to assist patients and families with the concept that dying is part of living and a natural evolution of the life process.

A time to take stock

This time can be an opportunity for patients to celebrate their lives, for instance by gathering pictures of the major events of their lives and creating an album or a story-board, together with families or friends. The joyful and successful events of the patient’s lifespan are depicted.

The additional value of hospice care is that patients and families have additional support from a team of well-trained professionals that help them with feelings of grief and loss which are normal at this time.

For more information about hospice care and the options available to you visit Marie Curie