The concept of hospice care traces its origins back to England in the late 1940s, when the term referred to specialized care for terminal patients. The first modern facility, St. Christopher’s Hospice, was founded in the suburbs of London in 1948. Fifteen years later, the concept was introduced to the United States and, in 1974, the first hospice in the U.S. started accepting patients.
Since then, the number of hospice patients has grown substantially. Today, hospice care helps patients and their families by providing them with the best possible quality of life during the time they have left.
Although hospice care has become universally accepted as a vital part of healthcare, there are several misperceptions we hear from patients and their families every day that I’d like to address.
Entering hospice means you’re “giving up”
Sometimes, patients and their families feel like they’re giving up if they go into hospice care, but really, it’s about choosing to spend the time they have left, no matter how long it is, in the manner they want to spend it. Hospice care is about making sure that the patient is as comfortable as possible. For example, if they are receiving care at home, the hospice nurses will make sure their beds and necessary equipment are in the right place.
This allows the patient to be as comfortable and pain-free as possible and do what they want with the time they have left.
Hospice care is limited to taking care of the patient’s needs, not the family
At Kindred Hospice, we are committed to taking a holistic approach, which means we are here for the family’s needs as well. For most terminal patients, knowing that their family’s emotional needs are being taken care of is a comfort.
It’s all about pain management, and nothing else
Another common misperception is that hospice care is only concerned with pain management and medical treatment. While these are important parts of hospice care, the holistic approach that Kindred Hospice practices is very attentive to the spiritual needs of the patient and family. We also help with organizing personal affairs and completing important tasks.
Receiving hospice care means moving into a facility
Kindred Hospice encourages patients to receive care in their own homes, in the environment that’s familiar and comfortable to them and their families. At home, patients can be around family, which makes it easier for them to be involved in the process. In some cases, depending on the patient’s medical needs, an inpatient hospice is the right choice, but if at all possible, we want them to be home. And that doesn’t necessarily have to be at their house. If they’ve been living in an assisted living facility and that’s what they consider “home,” then that’s where they should be.
Hospice care ends when the patient passes away
As I mentioned earlier, hospice care is also for the surviving family, so we make sure we have a nurse available to help walk the family through the steps that come next. Then, we stay in contact with the family after the patient passes on to make bereavement support groups and other forms of support available. We continue to be involved for 13 months because, for many families, the one-year anniversary can be a difficult time and we want to make sure that the family has the support they need.
Unfortunately, many people are uncomfortable talking about death, especially with their loved ones. However, it is a natural part of everyone’s life. Hospice care is simply a way to make the end of one’s life as fulfilling and rewarding as possible, for patients and their families.