Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Luxury of Hospice

Can hospice be a luxury? Yes. Not in the sense of sumptuous, indulgent living, but in the sense of providing a high level of physical comfort and mental well being to those who have received a terminal diagnosis.

This luxury includes being able to make plans for the end of one’s life: choices about medical treatment and financial concerns, among others. The luxury of receiving the care and compassion of hospice personnel is one that many who die do not experience.

In years past, heart attacks and strokes frequently resulted in sudden death. In 2012, more of us are surviving such events. Many deaths today occur incrementally from diseases such as cancer, dementia, diabetes, chronic heart disease and others. When death is not instant and is anticipated, an individual and his or her family members have the opportunity to choose how death is approached and what happens beyond death.

Making funeral plans in advance may seem like a grim task, but the luxury of time (though limited) allows the individual to exercise preferences and save the family incredible stress at the time of death. Those who cannot afford to prepay for a funeral can consider alternatives, including cremation. A patient’s hospice team can offer input and guidance that can be useful in decision-making.

The luxury of knowing that the end is approaching allows a person to exchange parting messages with friends and family. A patient can write or dictate letters to be shared after death occurs. There can be a sense of closure for the patient and loved ones. This closure generally does not occur when death comes quickly.

The luxury of hospice helps assure that the patient is comfortable and that pain will be dealt with. Hospice care also addresses social, mental and spiritual needs of the patient, as well as the physical.

It may seem odd to refer to hospice as a “luxury,” when one is facing imminent death. But hospice is a special kind of care that has been proved time and time again to be invaluable to both patients and loved ones.

 

For information about hospice care and all that it entails, feel free to call Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800.

 

 

 

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Fear of the Unknown

In our lifetimes, we all confront many things that are unknown. We hesitate. We avoid. We are skeptical of the unknown, doubtful about what may or may not be down the road. At times, we are forced to confront the unknown, but often, when given the choice, we stick with the known.

Hospice care is frequently a completely unknown concept to many who are told that it might be best for them. Unless a friend or family member can tell you about an experience with hospice care, it remains an unknown. Even when a doctor or hospice care representative explains what hospice is, a patient or family member can still be skeptical about the whole concept. At Hope Hospice, we answer all questions. We do our best to make take all the mystery out of hospice care.

As we get older, our avoidance of the unknown is a more pronounced trait. When we are 22 years old, we are less apprehensive about new friends, new jobs, new living quarters, new places to go and new things to try out. When we are 55 years old, we are more careful about people, places and things. As we age, we develop habitual patterns in our day-to-day living.

It is important to remember that many of the unknowns we experience in our lives actually turn out to be positive experiences! The trepidation one feels at certain milestone moments in life is not unusual. Courtship, marriage, births of children and grandchildren usually bring happiness and joy. Yet many of those life experiences are preceded by that fear of the unknown.

Life is a journey that takes each of us down many roads. Those of us who have lived in the same house with the same spouse, worked at the same job, attended the same church, shopped at the same stores and have had established routines for years, may not want those routines to be upset. But changes do occur and new roads lead to new experiences.

Work to learn about those unknowns and face the fact that our lives will not always follow the same path. When the future brings you unknowns, remember the way you embraced life’s unknowns “back in the day.”

When hospice care is introduced as a possibility for a loved one, address this unknown with the same curiosity and interest you had when introduced to new things in your younger days. Learn as much as you can and make your best choices now, as you did back then.

Is The Hospice Message Getting Through?

Are people gradually becoming more aware of hospice? Does it seem that when hospice is mentioned in a conversation, someone usually says, “Yes, my mother (or other loved one) was on hospice. Those people did such a great job!” Or, “The hospice nurses made sure that my uncle was not in pain during his final days.”

Does it seem lately that when someone talks about hospice, they are better informed? Has the general public learned that the great majority of hospice care is performed in private residences and in nursing homes, not at in-patient hospice facilities? Do they know that hospice care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurers? Do they know that hospice is not just doctors and nurses, but other teams members as well? Increasingly, the answers are yes.

How has this jump in hospice awareness and knowledge happened?

  1. More people are using hospice. Growth in hospice care organizations and in numbers of hospice patients has increased dramatically in St. Louis and across America in the last five years. As hospice delivers care to more patients, the family members and friends of those patients tell others about the work and the compassion of hospice personnel.
  2. Media members are more willing to do stories about hospice care and hospice patients. Some outlets are still looking primarily for lighter content beyond their hard news coverage. But as more media people learn what hospice is and what it does, they are more eager to tell the story. Even though hospice deals with people who are expected to die, hospice work is not all gloom and doom—a fact that media members are figuring out.
  3. The internet has, over the past decade and a half, delivered enormous amounts of information about hospice care. By utilizing hospice agency websites and blogs (such as this one), a person can obtain useful facts and opinions about hospice care and its value.
  4. The medical community, which is obliged to constantly gain knowledge about its specialty fields and general medical issues, has learned more about hospice. Sometimes this is because patients and patient families have asked doctors specific questions about hospice.

Hope Hospice knows that there is much work yet to be done in informing Americans about hospice and its value. We can’t stop now. But we can take just a moment and rejoice in the fact that efforts to inform people about hospice are moving ahead.

 

How to Select a Hospice

When a terminal diagnosis is given and the doctor recommends hospice, what should be your next step? For almost all patients, family members and close friends, there are moments of tears and sadness—even if the patient has been ill for a long time. But then the recommendation needs to be addressed.

The doctor may give contact information for one or more hospice care agencies. She or he may refer the patient to a hospice affiliated with her or his medical group. But patients and families are free to choose their own hospice organization.

We suggest that you seek information about hospice organizations. The patient and caregiver(s) should collaborate on a decision. But, whichever agency you select, we encourage you to connect with a hospice care agency as soon as possible. The patient may be relatively comfortable and in need of only minimal care today, but those situations can change literally overnight. It’s best to have a hospice agency engaged before the need is critical.

Some questions to ask as you talk to hospice agency representatives:

  1. How many visits does the patient receive each week?
  2. Is the hospice an independent agency or part of a multi-state organization?
  3. Does the hospice have testimonials from families of previous patients?
  4. Who are the hospice’s non-medical team members? (Social worker, chaplain, massage therapist, etc.)
  5. Does the agency furnish supplies other than medications? Such as adult diapers, if needed?
  6. How easy is it to reach hospice personnel on weekends and overnight?
  7. How responsive is hospice staff to problems and complaints?

Don’t be shy about asking these questions. At Hope Hospice we are eager to answer any and all questions about the services we provide. We know that the more you know about hospice and about Hope Hospice, the more likely you and your loved ones will be satisfied with the decision that is made.

Read More About End-of-Life

If you arrived at this page via an internet search, you may seeking information and opinions about hospice. Maybe someone you love has recently been diagnosed with a serious medical condition or has been given a terminal diagnosis.

This site and others can suggest things to be concerned about as your loved one faces the possibility of death. Your hospice team members can offer huge amounts of guidance and counsel. But it’s a good idea to collect as much input regarding death and dying as possible beforehand.

In addition to surfing the net for articles and postings about death, hospice and other end-of-life concerns, look to books. Your local library or bookstore will have relevant books that contain meaningful content from caregivers, hospice personnel, doctors, family members and others who can provide insight.

Online booksellers such as Amazon offer a long list of such books, available in print copies or as downloads to Kindle, Nook, iPad or other electronic devices.

Hope Hospice always advises those who have received a terminal diagnosis to reach out to a hospice agency as soon as possible. Similarly, it’s a good idea to become informed about death and the dying process earlier, rather than later.

Here are a handful of titles you might want to consider:

Final Gifts, Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying by hospice nurses Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley (published 1997)

Dying Well, Peace and Possibilities at the End of Life, by Dr. Ira Byock (published 1998)

At the End of Life, True Stories About How We Die, edited by Lee Gutkind (published 2012)

On Death and Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy and Their Own Families, by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D. (published 1969)

Remember, the time to read these books is now. Your loved one may have years left or she/he may have weeks. The process of dying is made up of many elements. The more you know, the better for you and your loved one.