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What is Hospice?
By Jon Radulovic

Hospice seeks to “de-institutionalize” the dying experience and provide a more humane system of care for those who have received a terminal diagnosis of six months or less. The first hospice program in this country was opened in New Haven, Connecticut in 1972; this was based on the Hospice Model of Care developed by Dame Cicely Saunders at St. Christopher’s Hospice in Great Britain. Currently, there are over 3,000 hospices in the United States and Puerto Rico.

Hospice is a concept of caring that brings comfort and support to people facing a terminal illness, and to their families. Hospice addresses all the symptoms of the disease with special emphasis on controlling pain and discomfort, allowing the patient and family to focus on maintaining quality of life. Hospice also deals with the emotional, social and spiritual impact of the disease on the patient, the patient’s family, and significant others. Hospice care brings this comfort and support directly into the family’s home enabling the patient to spend his or her final days in a familiar and loving environment.

A hospice team consists of physicians, nurses, aides, social workers, spiritual care givers, counselors, therapists, and volunteers – all of whom are specially trained to provide pain and symptom management for the patient and support for the family or other intimate network. Physicians who have been active in the patient’s care are encouraged to be part of this interdisciplinary team.

Because each person’s needs are unique, the hospice team works with the patient and family to develop a personalized care plan which ensures that the patient and family are at the center of all decision making. Always, the focus is on controlling pain, managing symptoms, and providing comfort, dignity and quality of life.

A unique characteristic of hospice care is the availability of bereavement resources that are an integral part of the hospice philosophy. Hospices have trained professionals working to assist the patient and family with the many aspects of grief which are present during the illness and then continue to provide bereavement services to the family for at least one year following the death. Their experience and understanding of the issues relating to grief, loss, and bereavement have led many hospices to serve as bereavement resources for their local community. Many hospices have support groups and other bereavement services available to serve people in need that have not been hospice clients.

Hospice Facts

Hospice is an aggressive medical choice that focuses on symptom management, comfort, dignity, and quality of life. Hospice neither lengthens life nor hastens death.

Whenever possible, patients are cared for in their own, or a family member’s, home. However, many hospices have facilities that provide the same care for hospice patients and their support networks. Hospice care is also available in nursing homes and other assisted living settings.

Hospice workers provide the patient and family with information and opportunities to participate in the decision making process.

Data shows that hospice care is less costly than care in a hospital.

The Medicare Hospice Benefit covers 100% of hospice services. Many private insurance plans, HMO’s, and Medicaid in many states also offer hospice benefits.

Bereavement care and resources are available to the family for at least one year; no other healthcare delivery system offers such support.

The patient, family, and/or physician can initiate an information/referral call or visit as soon as a terminal disease is diagnosed, or at the time a patient decides to move from a treatment plan focused on curing the disease to a plan focused on providing comfort and pain relief.

Jon Radulovic is the Communications Director for the Hospice Foundation of America. For more information about hospice and other available resources, contact Hospice Foundation of America at 1-800-854-3402 or visit our Web site at: www.hospicefoundation.org.

 


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