Hospice is not a place but a philosophy of care that focuses on enhancing the quality of life for people with an advanced illness when attempts at cure are no longer feasible. Hospice care becomes an option when people with serious disease decide that continued efforts to cure an illness are unlikely to be successful and/or when the physical and emotional toll of treatment causes them to lose their quality of life. Hospice care focuses on making the most of the time the individual has left, of relieving suffering and providing the support needed to engage in living life more fully, more comfortably and more in control.
Can any good healthcare provider deliver the hospice philosophy of care? At Central New Hampshire VNA & Hospice, we are often asked that question. It is true that any good and caring caring clinician can offer meaningful, compassionate care. But we believe that true hospice care address the many needs of people as they reach the end of their lives. Those needs exist in several dimensions – medical, social and spiritual, and they are best met by a team of qualified caring professionals.
Medicare, the healthcare coverage system for seniors and the disabled, has set the standard in the United States and requires certification of programs that serve their beneficiaries. That certification requires a team of skilled caregivers who address the medical, spiritual and emotional needs of the patient and, importantly, of their family. These caregivers – doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, nutritionists, social workers, spiritual care providers and volunteers – are all highly trained to understand and assist in managing quality of life concerns. This specialized care team works together to manage complex physical symptoms, to help in dealing with emotional issues, to guide financial questions and to explore spiritual beliefs and concerns. Importantly, the bereavement specialists also continue to work with the family for one year following the passing of a loved one, providing important support during the most difficult times.
Often as people approach the end of life, they are fearful: fearful of pain from an advancing disease, fearful of being a burden to their family, fearful of losing capacity and becoming dependent on others, fearful that they have not done enough in their lives. They sometimes need to come to peaceful closure in troubled relationships and to address and understand their lives in light of their spiritual beliefs. Certified hospice providers offer trained assistance in all those areas, and they are respectful of the patient and family’s unique needs and choices, always working toward the goal of quality of life. Certified hospice under Medicare and Medicaid also includes the provision of certain medications, treatments and medical equipment – which are not included under a general care umbrella.
When I speak to patients and families who are receiving hospice care, they are often struck by how relaxed it is and how much the care focuses on making the best of the time they have. They speak of the attention to both the medical and non-medical needs. They speak of the laughter shared and of the willingness to lend a shoulder to cry on. These are not the typical qualities of routine health care. That is why hospice is a very special service delivered by a very specialized team. So, when it is time for you or a loved one to consider the option of hospice, consider the depth and breadth of services offered by a certified hospice provider.
ABOUT the Author: Margaret Franckhauser is Chief Executive Officer of Central New Hampshire VNA & Hospice. The Mission of Central New Hampshire VNA & Hospice is “Promoting dignity, independence, and well-being through the delivery of quality home health, hospice and community-based care services.” Central New Hampshire VNA & Hospice serves Lakes Region communities in Belknap and Southern Carroll County and provides Home Care (nursing and rehabilitation services in the home); Pediatric Care (direct health care, education and support services for children and families); and a comprehensive, team-based Hospice program. Central New Hampshire VNA & Hospice is a not-for-profit, Medicare-certified provider of home care and hospice services, licensed by the State of New Hampshire. The agency is governed by a volunteer Board of Trustees and supported by private and corporate donations.