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A Guide To Hospice Care

Life is often described as going full circle. Put simply, you are born, you live your life, and finally, you die. Elderly people often regress to a childlike existence as they near the close of their life, and often need as much care and attention as a young baby needs. Carers can find it increasingly difficult to give this level of care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and as the relative in their care heads towards their final days, it may well be time to make a decision as to where they will spend them. A hospice is often a popular option because of the level of specialist care they offer, much more that a care home can offer.

What is a hospice?

Hospice comes from the Latin word hospital, meaning ``hospitality,'' or ann inn for travelers, particularly one run by a religious order.

In modern times, a hospice is a specialist nursing home where residents can receive specialist treatment in the final days of their life. The emphasis is on 'home' and the atmosphere of a hospice is bright, peaceful and friendly, far away form the clinical environment of a hospital. The staff are all highly trained doctors, nurses counsellors, care assistants and religious community leaders. They are there provide for every need of a resident in their final days and to make the transition from life to death as easy as possible.

How to choose a hospice

Choosing a hospice is a decision not to be taken lightly. Most hospices have the same care programs and basic philosophy of care but each differs in its atmosphere. You will need to visit the hospice - don't be worried about this as hospices are warm, welcoming places. The management will be pleased to answer your questions.

The questions you need to ask might include the following:

  • What facilities does the hospice have?
  • Who is the hospice doctor?
  • Does the hospice offer outpatient care?
  • Does the hospice offer short term respite care?
  • What is the hospice's policy on pain management?
  • How are families involved in the patient’s care?
  • What palliative (comfort care) does the hospice provide?
  • What is the hospice's admissions process?
  • How is care plan developed?
  • What support does the hospice provide to the family when a patient dies?
  • How does the hospice honor the patient’s wishes for death?
  • How are hospice staff managed?
  • Can the hospice provide references from professionals, such as social workers?
  • Who can you speak to about questions and complaints?

Dealing with your emotions

Choosing a hospice is a very difficult and emotion decision, mainly due to the fact that you may have cared for your elderly relative for a long period of time and do not want to face up to the fact that he or she is going to die in the hospice. Hospices are well aware of the emotions involved and will allay your fears and unwillingness to face the facts. Hospices are designed to fully support the family as well as the elderly person who will go to stay there.

Too soon?

A common fear that many carers have is that their elderly relative will be going into a hospice before is necessary. You should remember that the very fact that you are considering it, means that it is probably the right time. You will know first hand that old age and illness take their toll and there has to be an end at some point. By the time they are ready to go into a hospice, they are usually a shadow of the person you once knew and loved and hospice care can help you to let go, say goodbye and come to terms with the loss.

Your involvement in hospice care

Many hospices will allow you to continue to help administer care to your elderly relative, but with the one big difference that qualified and experienced staff are on hand to give you support and to take over if needed. They are there to keep the patient as comfortable as possible, but also to help you. They will understand your need to continue providing care, but also understand that you need time to yourself to rest and reflect. Whenever you leave, you will know that your elderly relative is in the best hands possible.

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