What do most nurses wish you knew about hospice care? Many wish they understood the reality of their patients’ deaths. Too often, families find themselves wondering if and when they will finally have to say good-bye to a loved one. While many lay people imagine that hospice care is not “painscent” or cosmetic in nature, the fact of the matter is that it is. It is not cosmetic, but it is absolutely necessary for patients and their families. Let’s explore the other side of what nurses wish you knew about hospice care.
Let’s start with the basics: How does it work? In a nutshell, doctors and/or nurses take over the role of keeping the patient comfortable, while providing all or part of the level of medical treatment needed. This type of service may be offered in the hospital, though more facilities are realizing that this option can be provided to patients in their homes as well. The goal is to provide the best possible level of care in the least amount of time. This is not always possible, however, and the goal is to work as efficiently as possible, while coping with the circumstances of the situation.
Hospice care is not always about the end of life. In some cases, patients and their families are surprised to learn that hospice actually refers to those services only after the death of the individual. Yes, of course, it is true that hospice personnel will make sure that all medical treatment is administered at the very best level. However, the goal is not to simply see the patient die. The primary focus of the health care team is to provide the patient and his or her family members with comfort and dignity during this difficult period.
What nurses wish you knew about hospice care, then, is that the involvement of the patient and his or her family members is a vital part of the entire process. Even though the terminally ill person has passed away, the support system that is offered extends to those who care for him or her. The focus is on the fact that the patient and his or her family members are given the ability to focus on the precious few short days left available to them. No one wants to think about death; however, with hospice care, the focus is on alleviating the suffering now, so that the patient can die a little more easily and peacefully, surrounded by those who love and support him or her.
What nurses wish you knew about hospice care starts with making sure that your loved one’s needs are being met. This may be as simple as making sure that medications are on hand and ready to be used when needed, as it can include more complex and long-term strategies. In addition, your family members need to understand that hospice care is not a place of rest, but rather, a place where comfort is found. Your loved one’s body will be maintained at a high state of hygiene and safety throughout the entire course of his or her treatment. Supplies including clothing and linens should be replaced regularly to prevent infection from occurring. Anyone who has previously experienced hospice care during a flare-up of a disease knows that the level of care is much different than what you would expect at home.
What nurses wish you knew about hospice care also includes the issue of emotional support. A nurse can offer emotional support to all family members during this difficult time. This support can come in many forms, ranging from simply offering words of encouragement to fully participating in family events. Family events can include going to the movies or watching a favorite television show. Invite all family members to join you in lighthearted fun at home. If you feel like your loved one would prefer a more formal gathering, invite a group of his or her friends to come and celebrate with him or her.
What nurses wish you knew about hospice care also included issues of privacy. Hospice care is confidential, so family members are not required to speak openly about their loved one’s condition. Family members who are uncomfortable about discussing certain topics may speak to a trained professional about them. During the talk, the professional will offer sound advice on how best to maintain the dignity of a patient while also allowing family members the opportunity to emotionally support their loved one.
These are just a few of the many things that nurses wish you knew about hospice care. The information in this article is designed to be used as a general guide. It should not replace expert medical advice, nor should it be used in place of receiving that advice from your doctor.