I will begin this page on a personal note. I have been a registered nurse for almost 25 years and have taken care of patients in a variety of settings. I worked for years in an inner city intensive care unit, have provided home care, private duty care and have even worked in long-term care over the course of my career. For the most part, my work in all of these areas has focused on prolonging life and averting death by providing increasingly complex medical care in the presence of illness. In most areas I've worked, death has been the enemy; death has signified failure. I've done CPR on patients at least a hundred times. I've been part of a Code Blue team and have defibrillated dying hearts over and over. I have been a CPR instructor for years-- always fighting death to the last moment.
As a long-term survivor of cancer, I decided to try to help others survive this terrible disease. It was inevitable, though, that I sometimes came into contact with terminally ill members of the cancer community. If I wanted to continue to participate as an advocate for cancer patients, I needed to be able to also advocate for those who were dying. I began to evaluate the concept of hospice, one of the few areas of health care I had not been a part of professionally. I wanted to learn more about the goals and philosophies of hospice care. To that end, I have become a hospice volunteer. It has been a wonderful experience. It has been rewarding to assist in the care of patients who feel happy, loved, and comfortable in their last days. To see people die while they are comfortable, at peace and surrounded by love. To see families who are supported and prepared for their grief when death occurs. To see life celebrated as much at its end as it was celebrated at its beginning.
Hospice care is seen by some as "giving up", as making a decision to end one's life. We live in a culture that promotes and celebrates youth and denies aging and death. In reality, we will all die someday; we begin that process the minute we are born. Hospice offers those who are experiencing a life-limiting illness to choose how they want to die, to take control of the quality of their final days, and to make their last days as full of life and love as possible. Hospice care is "palliative" care. Palliative care is more holistic and focuses on reducing pain, providing comfort and meeting the physical, spiritual, and social needs of those who are terminally ill so that they can live the remainder of their life fully and comfortably. Hospice facilities also provide care for the family and the patient's loved ones through the transition of illness, death and loss. This care is provided usually by a health care team. Members of this team include:
Hospice care can take place in one's home, in a free-standing hospice facility, or in an extended care setting. Hospice care is covered by most insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. Unfortunately, the great benefits that can be obtained from hospice care in one's final days are underutilized as many of those terminally ill enter a hospice program with only days to live.
National Cancer Institute Fact Sheet: Hospice
American Cancer Society: What is Hospice Care?
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Copyright © 2005- 2010 C. Langlie-Lesnik RN BSN All rights Reserved