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What is Hospice Care?

Right off the bat, the term “hospice” can sound very scary and intimidating to those who are planning the next move for their loved one’s care. However, hospice is nothing to fear. Hospice care is for people who have an incurable illness, such as Alzheimer’s. The aim is to ensure they are comfortable, and able to live their lives as fully as possible. Hospice care professionals do not cure diseases. Instead, they treat a person’s symptoms to improve their quality of life. They also aim to include family members and caregivers in decisions that affect a person’s care.

Studies show hospice care often is not started soon enough. Sometimes the doctor, patient, or family member will resist hospice because they think it means “giving up” or that there’s no hope. It’s important to know that you can leave hospice any time you want. But the hope that hospice brings is a quality life, making the best of each day during the last stages of advanced illness.

What exactly is hospice care?

A common misunderstanding is that hospice is a place—it’s not, but rather a philosophy of care.  The focus of hospice is to care, not cure. The goal of hospice care is to improve the quality of life for those who are near death. The intent is not to prolong life or prevent death but to treat the patient with dignity and comfort. Hospice services provide basic medical care with a focus on pain management and controlling a patient’s symptoms. Hospice care can not only bring great comfort for the person dying but relieve the suffering and stress of family members and caregivers.

Hospice is directed at the entire family—it’s more than just treatment, medication management, or nursing care.  Counseling and social work help are available when needed to assist the patient and their family with psychological, emotional, and spiritual issues. They can assist families with the difficult steps of life completion and issues of closure.

Also, volunteers will sit with the patient for several hours to keep them company which allows primary caregivers to have a break or to keep up with their own personal responsibilities. Many times, the primary caregiver will put their life on hold when caring for a terminally ill parent or loved one. Hospice volunteers help you care for yourself and keep up your obligations. They can even support you with smaller tasks like meal preparation or running errands for a family.

Where does hospice take place?

Historically, there have been buildings called hospices. But what we refer to today as “hospice care” is a type of care, not the facility. If a patient is living in an assisted living, memory care or retirement community, hospice can come to them in their apartment. If the patient needs specific care that a primary caregiver is unable to provide or they need a particular type of care, then hospice can be delivered somewhere other than their home. Most hospice providers are very accommodating to your families wishes.

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The main takeaway from this blog is that the word hospice does not mean death. There’s research that shows hospice patients live longer than non-hospice patients, some patients do improve and go on to graduate from hospice care, and doctors don’t always get their prognosis right.

The internet projects some misconceptions about hospice care that are being spread and as a result, some people may refuse to receive hospice care and will likely suffer more. Learning the truth about hospice is important in dispelling misconceptions. 

If you believe that you or your loved one would benefit from hospice care, please consult your Executive Director or Registered Nurse for a list of hospice partners available at Azura.

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