Friday, December 8
Redefining Palliative and Hospice Care
Sometimes people perceive hospice and palliative care as giving up, but these vital services actually offer life-affirming benefits during challenging times. Let's take a look at how former president Jimmy Carter's decision to opt for hospice care at his Georgia ranch exemplifies a shift in understanding. Rather than enduring more hospital stays and aggressive treatments, Carter prioritized comfort and embraced meaningful moments with his wife of 77 years and indulging in his favorite treat, peanut butter ice cream.
Choosing hospice doesn't mean abandoning medical care but rather focusing on finding comfort in the care you receive. It's about having the freedom to be at home with loved ones, enjoying favorite shows, meals, and the company of pets, instead of being confined to a hospital. It's an opportunity to paint a picture of what you want the end of life to look like and making decisions that align with your values.
To better understand your options, it's important to differentiate between palliative care and hospice. Palliative care aims to provide symptom relief and support for individuals who are seriously ill at any stage, not just at the end of life. It can be combined with curative treatments and offers an extra layer of assistance for patients, families, and the healthcare team. Hospice, on the other hand, focuses on making the dying process more comfortable for individuals with serious illnesses, often those with a prognosis of six months or less to live.
Hospice care can be provided at home or in a hospital-based unit, dedicated facility, or nursing home, depending on the level of support needed. The hospice team ensures patients have necessary equipment, medications, and round-the-clock assistance when required. They adopt a holistic approach, addressing physical, spiritual, emotional, and social pain to support patients as whole individuals.
Research has shown that palliative care can extend life and improve overall well-being. By incorporating palliative care alongside cancer treatment, patients have experienced longer survival times, improved symptom management, and a higher quality of life. However, aggressive medical care near the end of life remains common, often due to a combination of hope for a miracle, fear, and uncertainty. Engaging in discussions about living well and understanding personal values can help individuals make informed decisions that prioritize comfort and quality of life.
One of the greatest benefits of hospice care is the ability to focus on personal priorities. The hospice team works with patients to understand their desires and supports them in achieving their goals, whether it's attending important family milestones or simply enjoying everyday activities. Creating meaningful memories and engaging in conversations that wrap up one's life journey can be profoundly healing.
If you or a loved one has received a prognosis of six months or less to live, considering hospice care is advisable. It's essential to have open conversations with the care team, inquire about enrollment procedures, seek recommendations from others who have experienced hospice care, and reach out to a hospice agency for more information. Assessing your home's layout and equipment needs is also crucial. Remember, embracing hospice care is not a failure but the beginning of a new chapter in life, and there are experienced professionals available to support you through this process.
Images by Depositphotos
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