When your family member receives a diagnosis of a life-threatening condition, hearing the news can be “like falling through the ice,” to borrow an expression shared in a recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch column.
While it is the patient who receives the diagnosis, the family shares the stress and the concern, if not the pain. As a loved one faces the end of his or her life, the support of family members is needed more than ever. Honest, open discussions about the final journey on life’s highway are more difficult for some families than for others. Such discussions are almost never easy.
Hospice can help. Hospice personnel, including social workers and chaplains, as well as medical staff, can help families anticipate the steps that wait ahead on the journey. Hospice team members can facilitate conversations with patients and family members that lead to better communication. In many cases, assumptions about a patient’s wishes can be totally inaccurate. Family members be uncomfortable sharing thoughts with the patient and with one another. The hospice team can play a vital role in encouraging conversations.
Families can take comfort in the knowledge that a hospice crew is monitoring their loved one’s condition several times each week and taking care to provide proper medication. Families are sometimes surprised to discover that hospice offers spiritual and emotional counsel to patients and to family members, along with medical care. Families are relieved to learn that almost all hospice costs are covered by most medical plans.
The role of the family in patient comfort and care cannot be overstated. Because hospice staff members are not with the patient on a 24/7 basis, it is important that caregivers (presumably family members) share information with the hospice team.
Hospice team members provide guidance to family members regarding what they can do to work hand-in-hand with the hospice team.
Hospice team concern for family members does not end when the patient dies. Hospices offer grief counseling and emotional support to family members upon the patient’s death and for up to a year afterward.
Hospice provides wonderful services for patients and offers much for patients’ families as well. For more information about hospice care in metro St. Louis, please call Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800. Let us know how we can help you and your family.
Doctors and other medical personnel need to know about hospice. Doctors who treat patients for conditions that can lead to death should, for the sake of their patients, become familiar with the concept of hospice. Physicians must consider the needs of each patient and be prepared to share information about hospice care in a timely manner.
A report published by University of Nebraska in 2003 states “at least one-quarter of physicians do not discuss hospice options with their terminally ill patients.” This statistic is surprising and baffling. As hospice care becomes more popular among Americans and hospice information becomes more readily available, we must hope that more doctors will talk to terminally ill patients and their families about hospice.
The report also says “the timing of the hospice discussion seems to be the single most inﬂuential factor in utilization.” It continues: “families who were provided hospice information before and during their relative’s terminal illness were seven times more likely to consider hospice than those families who knew of hospice before the illness but did not receive further information during the illness.”
The message is clear. Doctors should not be afraid to talk about hospice. Hospices need to step up our outreach to the medical community. Patients and families should not pre-empt conversations about hospice.
In fact, patients and family members need to be pro-active so that all avenues of care are explored. Feel free to ask your doctor about hospice at any point during treatment. You may also want to ask friends, your minister and other medical personnel for information and thoughts about hospice.
Another conclusion from the University of Nebraska report is this one: “The majority of hospice family survivors reported that they would have welcomed more information about hospice from their physicians at the time the diagnosis was labeled terminal.”
At Hope Hospice (based in metro St. Louis), we are always ready to answer your questions about hospice care. We are eager to share information about Hope Hospice with patients, family members and doctors. Call us for information at 314-984-9800. Please visit our website: HopeHospiceSTL.com.
You only get one chance to make a good first impression. We know that many of the people who call us at Hope Hospice or meet us for the first time are in uncharted waters. They may be dealing with their own recent terminal diagnosis or that of a loved one. When a doctor says death is approaching, it takes a while to come to grips with that information. We are sensitive to the fact that any person who calls us may be in a difficult state of mind.
We also know that many who call us may have little familiarity with hospice care, what it is and what it is not. They may not be aware that differences exist among St. Louis area hospice care agencies.
Rather than recite a memorized list of bullet points about Hope Hospice when that first call comes from a newly referred patient or caregiver, we try to find out first about the patient’s situation. Every patient is different. What is the patient’s current condition? Are there special circumstances we need to know about? Who will function as the patient’s caregiver(s)?
We hope that the first impressions we make upon those who call us will serve to establish confidence in our abilities to deliver hospice care with love and compassion. We also are concerned about making good first impressions when we meet patients and caregivers in person.
In addition to showing up at the appointed time, we work to communicate clearly what we do and how we can meet a patient’s specific needs. We listen. We make eye contact. We explain why an independent, locally based, family-owned hospice may be the best choice for the patient and the family and other caregivers. But mainly, we focus on the primary concerns of the patient and those who love the patient.
We know that a good first impression influences the decision by concerned parties to let Hope Hospice be a part of the end-of-life process. Call us for information. We are standing by to make a good first impression on you. Call Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800.
Independence Day generally does not have the same significance for hospice patients and families that Thanksgiving and Christmas possess. July 4th however IS an important holiday with many traditions shared with family and friends. At Hope Hospice, we encourage patients and families to celebrate our nation’s birthday and appreciate the blessings we experience as Americans.
Parades, fireworks, concerts and other activities present opportunities to enjoy experiences with the hospice patient in your family. When the American flag passes by and a marching band plays a Sousa march or other patriotic song, emotions are stirred. Memories of past Independence Days can be just as vivid as our nostalgia for Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Even if your family member who is a hospice patient is not strong enough to leave home to attend July 4th events, television coverage can bring these spectacles into your family room. The company of family and friends can add to the joy these programs bring.
Don’t forget the foods of July 4th. Even if your hospice patient eats lightly, she or he can enjoy the aromas of the pork steaks, hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad, potato chips and other 4th favorites. Just a few bites of these classic summer foods may be enough to make your patient happy.
If you do choose to view a community parade, be sure that your hospice patient has a good view and is shaded from bright sunlight. Place a folding chair at the front of the crowd or on higher ground for better parade viewing.
If you plan to take your hospice patient out of the house to see fireworks, you may want to try to find a location to watch from your car. Check for listings of fireworks displays: suburban and rural shows will not generate the heavy traffic of shows in urban areas. If you choose to find a spot to watch fireworks outside of your car, be sure to bring a good flashlight for navigation in dark areas.
Serving as a caregiver for a hospice patient can be a daunting task, but holidays and other celebrations can add happiness for both the patient and caregiver. Happy Independence Day to all from Hope Hospice!