6 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Hospice

Posted: 11/8/2018 1:14 PM by Interim HealthCare

By Marianne Wait

Many families wait too long to choose hospice for a loved one because they don’t realize what hospice is really about and what benefits it can provide. In fact, there are many misconceptions about hospice. Here are six realities about this type of care that you might not have known.
Hospice is not about “giving up”
Some people equate hospice with giving up. In fact, it’s about choosing to focus on preserving a higher quality of life during the time that remains and to make the most of those precious months, weeks or days. The goal is not only to make the patient more physically comfortable — and keep them at home as long as possible if that’s their desire — but also to address their emotional and spiritual needs and those of the family, too.
It can help turn wishes into reality
Whether they voice them or not, many dying people have desires and wishes that may go unanswered if no one asks about them.
Tammy Fox, RN, national director of hospice for Interim HealthCare, explains that hospice nurses won’t hesitate to ask, “What do you want, and how do you envision this going?” or to say, “Tell me three things that are most important to you as we go through this process,” or, “Tell me what’s weighing on your mind today that I can help you with.”
A practical desire that’s easy enough to solve might be moving the bed into the living room to be closer to the family instead of staying sequestered in the bedroom. Or perhaps the person wants to leave the house for a meaningful outing or simply do something they love one last time.
“I had a patient once who loved, loved, loved garage sales,” says Fox. “She wanted to go to garage sales as much as possible until she wasn’t able to. So we made sure she had a wheelchair, a ride, a volunteer to go with her and portable oxygen so that she could do some garage sale-ing.
“Another patient loved baseball. She wanted to make sure she could watch the baseball games on TV as long as she was able to. We coordinated her pain medications around those ballgames so that she was properly medicated for pain but wasn’t overmedicated so that she was able to stay awake.”
It can help you avoid trips to the ER
When a loved one in hospice care has trouble breathing or some other emergency in the middle of the night, there’s no need to call an ambulance, drive to the ER or try to contact their primary-care physician. A hospice nurse is available 24/7, and he or she will be able to help over the phone or come out to visit and provide care.
Hospice can help families provide better care
Every person’s end-of-life journey is different, but many changes happen along the way that families aren’t familiar with and don’t know how to handle. Hospice aides and nurses can help families understand why those changes are taking place and how best to respond, as well as provide instruction in practical skills such as changing the bed linens when the bed is occupied.
Hospice social workers can help bridge family rifts
Hospice social workers can step in when family members clash over care decisions, which is not at all uncommon. “Sometimes there are family issues, and they may become more exaggerated at end of life,” says Fox. “If the daughter and mother always fight and that’s the way they communicate, at end of life it may just get worse,” says Fox. As a neutral third party, the social worker can help “get a little more like-mindedness” and help the family focus on the patient’s end-of-life wishes and on closure.
Hospice helps with bereavement
Hospice care doesn’t end when the patient dies. A hospice team member will help the family take care of the practical tasks and logistics that need addressing. But hospice also helps family members understand and move forward in the grief process and provides bereavement support for 13 months. 
Marianne Wait is an editor and writer who creates content for brands.