If I begin to answer that question with something sentimental like “hospice is love” you will all click away from such a trite saying. To educate my audience, I could attempt a dry dictionary explanation of hospice, like discussion of methods and practices…are you clicking away yet?
Hospice is a balance between the real expression of loving, supportive care and the rational, practical treatment of someone with a terminal illness. Love is all around. The patient emanates love and affection for the ones they are leaving. In turn, the family’s and friends’ love embraces and comforts the dying. And, sometimes, a patient doesn’t have a family support system. In these cases, hospice can step in and provide not only services, but companionship.
Holding all of these systems together is a team of professional hospice workers: nurses, CNAs, social workers, spiritual counselors, along with all the administrative and volunteer support they need to support our patients. These professionals weave their blanket of cohesiveness, comforting all with warm hearts and kind hands, combined with experience and knowledge of processes and available services. The hospice goal is to provide a dignified and harmonious passage from life to death.
And when death comes, what do you do? Who do you call? How do you get help to figure out the next step? Hospice workers prepare the family and loved ones for this eventuality. They are there to make arrangements and help you figure it all out. They come with compassion and resources.
When aggressive, curative care is no longer desired, hospice can offer comfort care to the patient as well as support loved ones. The hospice professional is trained to treat the whole patient, not just the organ that is diseased or the part that is malfunctioning but also the emotional distress and the spiritual cravings that surface when death is near. Hospice professionals will educate the family on what to expect as their loved one progresses through this difficult time. Social workers help families under stress – providing emotional support, dealing with family conflicts, assisting with difficult situations. Spiritual counselors can be a connection to a faith community while also offering emotional and spiritual support. Volunteers are available to sit with the patients and keep them company or to provide respite for caregivers. And, hospice is there after the death, with ongoing grief counseling and support groups.
The end of life is a hard time for the family; it’s scary and new and terribly sad. But hospice workers recognize all that and strive to make the terrible time easier, calmer, more respectful. Years of experience have taught hospice workers how to compassionately care for someone on the last leg of their earthly journey, ensuring a safe passage and making the experience less difficult on the ones left behind.