Hospice Care: Support for You and Your Loved Ones
How to Support Loved Ones in Hospice Care
Patients who have terminal illnesses and their loved ones tend to avoid talking about end-of-life plans. Stigma, misconceptions and emotional reluctance can keep families from asking about or pursuing hospice care. To better understand hospice care and how it helps patients and their loved ones, we spoke with Angela Hamblen Kelly, executive director of the Baptist Centers for Good Grief.
What is hospice care?
Hospice care focuses on providing humane and compassionate care for people in the last phases of incurable diseases. It helps them live as fully and comfortably as possible. According to the American Cancer Society, hospice care treats the person rather than the disease. Medical providers and hospice caregivers manage symptoms, so patients can maintain their dignity and comfort in the presence of loved ones.
“Hospice care is family-centered because it gives patients and their loved ones the ability to make caregiving decisions that affect the whole family,” said Hamblen Kelly.
Who needs hospice care?
Hospice care is recommended for terminally ill patients who have a life expectancy of 6 months or less. It’s also advised for patients who no longer respond to curative treatments. Hospice provides access to supportive or palliative care—a treatment to help relieve symptoms but not cure the disease. Its main purpose is to improve quality of life. You, your family members and your doctor decide when hospice care should begin.
“Sometimes the doctor, patient or family members resist hospice because they think it means giving up or that there’s no hope,” said Hamblen Kelly.
If treatment isn’t working or treatment options have been exhausted, hospice care allows patients to make the best of each day during the last stages of advanced illness.
What are the benefits of hospice for loved ones?
Hospice provides a variety of supportive services, but patients and family members may prefer or need specific approaches to service, staffing patterns and types of care. The following hospice services provide comfort and support to both terminally ill patients and their loved ones:
- Pain and symptom control: Manages discomfort, pain, nausea and other side effects to make patients comfortable
- Spiritual care: Uses patients’ preferred religious beliefs to help them and their loved ones grieve, or organize a meaningful ceremony or ritual
- Family meetings: Provide emotional support to family members while also offering information about patients’ conditions and what to expect
- Coordination of care: Helps direct and supervise patients’ care across providers, facilities and community professionals, such as clergy and funeral directors
- Bereavement care: Offers support to surviving loved ones and helps families through the grieving process
Hospice Services at Baptist
“Baptist Reynolds Hospice House creates a home-like environment for you,” said Hamblen Kelly. “It does not feel like you’re in a nursing home.”
It’s a 24-bed facility that functions like a hospital but looks and feels like home. A devoted team of doctors, nurses, social workers and chaplains focus on maintaining the best possible quality of life by providing comfort, independence and dignity. It’s an optimal choice for home-like care when illnesses become too complex or difficult to manage at home.
Supporting Hospice Patients at Home
For some patients, in-home hospice care offers the most healing and comfort. In-home hospice through Baptist Trinity Hospice lets family caregivers attend to loved ones but provides around-the-clock care and monitoring when family members need to sleep, work or leave the home.
Experienced hospice care teams at Baptist Trinity Hospice also provide emotional support and logistical guidance. When your loved one is ready to continue hospice at home, the Baptist Trinity Hospice teams help to make the home accessible and comfortable.
“There is an element of emotional comfort that happens in the home,” said Hamblen Kelly.
Regardless of the environment, Baptist Trinity Hospice works to honor the end of life with the same dignity and compassion as the beginning of life.
“We want to give people and their family all that they need at the end of life,” said Hamblen Kelly. “Hospice is really an expression of love.”