Hope Hospice Angels? Not Exactly, But…

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Hospice personnel have frequently been referred to as “angels.”

By certain definitions, that’s an accurate term. “A person having qualities generally attributed to an angel, (such) as… kindliness.” “A person who…acts as if sent by God.” “Someone who is very good or kind.” “A person of exemplary conduct or virtue.”

Numerous survivors of hospice patients have written letters to us at Hope Hospice describing our staff members as angels. We are not the only hospice to receive such high praise. Some hospices around the U.S. and the world have even gone so far as to include the word “angel” in their hospice name.

While angels depicted on TV and in movies (such as Clarence in It’s A Wonderful Life and Jonathan Smith on Highway To Heaven) have a direct line to heaven and God, our team members cannot make that claim. But our employees and volunteers have served patients and family members with similar dedication and determination to do things the right way. When circumstances dictate a need, our team members go above and beyond to make sure things are taken care of, in the patient’s best interests.

The country music group Alabama sang a song called Angels Among Us, describing angel-like behavior by fellow humans along the path of life. But the chorus speaks of angels sent from “somewhere up above.” About those angels, they sing: “They come to you and me, in our darkest hours… To show us how to live, to teach us how to give, to guide us with the light of love.”

Our Hope Hospice “angels” are not from somewhere up above. They are all mortal, from here on earth. But the level of compassion and care that’s delivered daily to our patients and their family members is exceptional. And for that we are proud.

For information about hospice care in metro St. Louis, please call us at Hope Hospice at any time at 314-984-9800

(photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/73299047@N06/12232278415,  http://photopin.com,  https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When The Family Has Disagreements About Hospice

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When a doctor tells a family member that an illness is terminal, there may be disagreement among other family members about the next steps to take.

When dad has been told that death is just a few months away, sons and daughters may want dad to go on hospice while mom may want to continue aggressive treatment. (Or those sides of the argument may be reversed.)

Frequently, these disagreements occur because of a lack of familiarity with hospice. The concept is still relatively new, just a few decades old in the U.S. Even those in their 70s and 80s who’ve had friends on hospice may not know the full scope of hospice care and may have fallen prey to hospice misconceptions.

The most important things to know are: Hospice care does not speed up the dying process. Hospice is focused on patient comfort and pain relief. If a patient and/or caregivers want to rescind the decision to accept hospice care, it can be easily done.

It can be hard for any family member to face up to the reality that mom, dad, husband, wife or other family member will soon be gone. When a patient signs on for hospice care, there is an implied acknowledgement that life’s finish line is within view.

Convincing others who are providing input into the decision that your position (either for or against hospice care) is the correct choice can be difficult. A visit with a hospice representative can address most of your concerns and may reveal to all concerned that hospice is the proper choice. Or maybe not, for now.

We at Hope Hospice welcome the opportunity to share our story with all who will listen. If you have any questions about hospice care in St. Louis, call Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Much Time Do I Have Left?

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“How much time do I have left?”

That’s often the reply when a doctor says to a patient that treatments are no longer working and that a patient should consider hospice.

But maybe the question should be: “How can I make sure that the time I have left is best utilized?”

It is impossible to say exactly how much time a person has left, so the best estimate is an educated guess. Even with cancers that progress in patterns that are familiar to physicians, no one can say for sure how long a patient has left.

For a patient and his or her caregivers (and others who are close to the patient), the choices are continued (often futile) efforts to confront the terminal condition or the pursuit of meaningful life experiences during one’s remaining time.

If you search the internet for personal hospice stories, you will read of sons and daughters who tell of a parent’s final days/weeks/months and a different, special kind of closeness enjoyed with mom or dad. You will learn of survivors who were grateful for the quality experiences with their loved ones before their passings. And you will learn the value of being able to say goodbye—for the patient and the survivors.

If a patient seeks hospice care in time (there’s that word time again!), he or she may have opportunities to visit with friends and family and have conversations that may not be possible if the patient is in a hospital ICU.

“How much time do I have left?” At age 40, we might think we have another 40-50 years. At age 65, we may figure on living another 25 years or so. At age 90, we know time is shorter, but even then we may presume that death is still down the road.

When a terminal diagnosis is delivered, things become more urgent. Yes, the number of days remaining is important to consider. But the quality of those remaining days should also be considered.

For information about hospice care in metro St. Louis, please call Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800.

(photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/30227069@N06/4337496170, http://photopin.com, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hospice > Assisted Suicide

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In late 2014, Brittany Maynard, attracted a large amount of sympathy and generated much discussion of assisted suicide. The 29-year-old woman with brain cancer chose to end her life in Oregon where assisted suicide is legal. She was a beautiful, vivacious young woman whose first-person writings stated her desire to spare her family the tragedy of watching her condition deteriorate as she progressed toward death.

The issue of assisted suicide (often referred to as “death with dignity”) is a polarizing topic with respected individuals and organizations taking stands on both sides of the argument.

In states where assisted suicide is legal, hospice organizations must make decisions as to whether to allow their staff members to participate in these procedures. Many individuals who choose assisted suicide in these states are hospice patients. Most hospices do not allow their staff members to be present when the procedure occurs.

We agree with Dr. Sandeep Jauhar who writes on CNN.com: I still believe that for most terminally ill patients, hospice care is a better option than assisted suicide. Hospice offers team-based care with family involvement, often in a patient’s home, that focuses on pain management and dying with some comfort and dignity.

Wesley Smith, writing last month on FirstThings.com, shared these thoughts: Hospice is about living, not dying. More precisely, hospice supports life with dignity for its patients and offers invaluable social and emotional support for patients’ families.

Noted hospice advocate Dr. Ira Byock, writing in January in the Los Angeles Times, says: I aid people in dying by treating their symptoms and supporting them through the difficult practical and emotional tasks of completing their lives. In more than 35 years of practice I have never once had to kill a patient to alleviate the person’s suffering.

He continues: I believe that deliberately ending the lives of ill people represents a socially erosive response to basic human needs. If we can stay civil and (even relatively) calm, we can debate physician-assisted suicide while also substantially improving end-of-life care.

As with most such controversial topics, much discussion lies ahead. At Hope Hospice, we encourage you to learn about all the ways hospice care can enhance the end of life process and provide comfort and support to patients. If you have questions about hospice care in metro St. Louis, please call us at 314-984-9800.

(photo credit:    http://www.flickr.com/photos/32066106@N06/6087917593, http://photopin.com, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/)

 

 

 

 

Considering Hospice?

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If you have been considering hospice for yourself or for your spouse, partner, parent, sibling or other family member, here are a few things you should know.

  1. The primary goal of hospice care is to provide comfort and peace of mind to patients.
  2. Hospices provide this service in private homes and care facilities.
  3. Hospice nurses and home health aides monitor a patient’s condition through in-person visits several times each week.
  4. Hospice staff members offer guidance for family members regarding care for patients. Hospice agencies provide supplies as needed, such as hospital beds, adult diapers and oxygen for home use.
  5. Hospice is a fully covered by Medicare. Other private and government-issued insurance plans typically cover hospice care completely.
  6. Hospice personnel know that patients and family members may not be familiar with hospice care and how it works. They work to assure that all concerned are well informed about the extent of care hospice offers.
  7. Although nurses and other staff are on call round-the-clock, hospices do not provide 24/7 care. In-home caregivers (including family members and home health care service providers) or nursing facility staff take care of patient needs on a day-to-day basis.
  8. Hospice care can include visits from a massage therapist who is trained to help address discomforts that typically affect hospice patients.
  9. Hospice volunteers are available to provide companionship to patients. They may read to them or simply visit and share a conversation.
  10. The hospice chaplain offers counsel to patients as well as to family members. He or she can offer ways to address grief, as necessary.
  11. Hospice does not accelerate or slow down the dying process. Its purpose is to allow patients to spend their final days living the best life possible.
  12. The hospice team will help guide caregivers through the final stages of the patient’s life.

If you have questions about hospice care in St. Louis, please call Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800.

Patient Comfort=The #1 Priority of Hospice

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Hospice care is all about comfort. Freedom from pain. The security of being in one’s own home, surrounded by loving family members.

Hospice does not make a person’s life longer or shorter. But it does strive to make the final days/weeks/months of a person’s life better. Hospice works to relieve a patient’s physical pain and emotional pain.

Hospice not only benefits the patient, it also benefits the family. The second definition of “comfort” in the illustration above speaks of the easing of a person’s feelings grief or distress. Spiritual support and counseling is available for hospice patients and family members.

Comfort for patients is achieved in several ways including massage therapy. (Not all hospice agencies employ a massage therapist. Hope Hospice does.)

Hospice nurses and doctors provide patient comfort by alleviating pain with medications, including narcotic medications. Experienced personnel know which medications are right for which particular pain. They also know the side effects that may occur.

It is a myth that morphine is only administered when a patient is very close to death. The level of pain is the determining factor regarding morphine and its dosage amount. Again, the goal is patient comfort.

Whether Hope Hospice administers care to a patient in a private home or in a care facility, patient comfort is the top priority.

Because certain aggressive treatments can be painful and stressful, simply ending those treatments and handing care over to your hospice team can lead to increased patient comfort (even before medications are administered).

To learn more about hospice care and ways that hospice can help provide patient comfort, please call Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Can Quit Hospice

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If a patient or family member is having difficulty making the decision to transition to hospice care, you should know that a patient can stop hospice care at any time.

If, at any point after being admitted for hospice care, a patient or family member feels that the decision was made too soon, you can stop hospice care and resume your previous course of treatment.

If, after beginning hospice care, a patient has a change of heart and chooses to go back to aggressively fighting an illness, that is an option that may be exercised.

If hospice care does not meet expectations, for whatever reason, the commitment to receive hospice care can be cancelled.

The vast majority of patients and families DO continue with the hospice care program they have begun. For family members, the important factor to consider is the welfare of the patient. Is he or she better off with hospice care or with another form of care?

In a small number of cases, a patient may get better or, at least, not get worse and choose to end hospice care. With many noncancerous conditions, it is difficult to predict life expectancy of a patient.

If the fear of signing on for something you cannot step away from is causing you, as a patient or as a family member, to avoid hospice care or to postpone making the decision, don’t be afraid. You can discontinue hospice care whenever you wish.

We at Hope Hospice work hard to meet the needs of patients and families. We explain to you exactly what hospice care is and what it can and cannot do, so that our service will meet expectations.

For questions about hospice care in St. Louis, please call us at Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800. We know that hospice may be an unfamiliar concept to many and we are always happy to help with answers to all your questions.

 

(photo credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/29778206@N04/3097490380, http://photopin.com, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)