What is Hospice?
Nobody likes to imagine the final days or moments of our life, but when we’re faced with death – our own or that of a loved one – we all have some idea of how we’d prefer those moments to go. The ideal is for death to be peaceful and painless, with loved ones nearby to see us off.
Not everybody gets that, but most people that suffer from terminal illnesses can receive help that enables them to come as close to the ideal as possible.
What Hospice Care Is
Hospice care is a form of health care provided at the end of life. Many families and individuals reach a point where continuing with health care that’s meant to prolong life no longer feels like the top priority. When a person is ready to accept the inevitability of death and shift to a focus on easing pain, that’s when hospice care comes into play.
Hospice care professionals are trained in methods to ease the pain of the terminally ill and help both them and their loved ones through the difficult process of dying. We go through so much of our lives focused on living that having a professional around to provide advice and guidance on the transition of dying or losing a loved one can make a big difference in helping people through the experience.
Hospice care doesn’t take place in a hospital setting, hospice professionals will come to you. Often that means coming to a person’s home, but hospice care will also come to assisted living facilities and nursing homes if needed.
How to Know When It’s Time
The trickiest part of employing hospice care is deciding when it’s time. On the one hand, most families want to be able to spend as much time as possible with a loved one. On the other, some types of illnesses and treatments are painful and the best thing for the patient and those they care about is to focus on easing that pain.
As much as humans are hardwired to want to live, living in constant pain with an illness that may never heal is a difficult prospect. And to state the obvious, everyone does die at some point. Whether or not you do so with the help of hospice care in order to come closer to the ideal scenario we all hope for, or if you die fighting any illnesses or health problems that plague you to the end, death will come.
For some families, the decision may be clear. Others will likely agonize over it. But at the end of the day, it’s fully up to the patient or, if the patient isn’t in a state to make a decision, their legal guardian.
Most people will want to spend some time discussing the option with their family and their doctor. A doctor’s opinion on the patient’s chances of getting past an illness and the time they have left can help provide the family with a clearer picture of their options. And family members who make it clear that they’ll support their loved one no matter what they choose can make the decision easier on them.
How to Find Hospice Care
When you do decide it’s time to find hospice care, one of the first things to do is talk to your doctor. Physicians often have experience with hospice organizations and professionals and can provide a referral for you.
You can also find several directories online that allow you to search your local hospice options, such as the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s (NHPCO) website and the Hospice Directory.
Death is hard, but there are ways to make it easier. If your family is ready to welcome hospice into the process, their skills can help make it easier on everyone.