Hospice care critical to patients, families

What makes a good death? This is a question that many people prefer not to think about in their day-to-day lives. However, for patients facing an uncertain future, it is an extremely relevant reality. The answer can vary from person to person, depending on individual personalities, interests and desires. However, for most people, a good death is quite simple. It means being physically comfortable, at peace in your own home, surrounded by your loved ones doing the things you love to do up until the very end. These essential details are made possible by hospice care.

Hospice, by definition, is a team-oriented approach to providing specialized care for people facing a life-limiting illness. It includes expert medical care, pain and symptom management and emotional support for patients and their families. But more simply, hospice care supports living one’s life to the fullest with dignity regardless of how much time remains.

In a recent national survey, the overwhelming majority of respondents agreed that expertise in keeping a terminally-ill patient as comfortable and as pain-free as possible is the single most important service to consider when caring for a loved one and the end-of-life experience. This is the essence of hospice care.

One of the great myths of hospice, for many who have not experienced it, is that hospice patients are merely lying in a bed, barely conscious.

This is not the case. When a patient is admitted at an appropriate time, hospice care can improve his or her quality of life. Another hospice myth is that families lose control over what happens to their loved ones.

The facts are that a family is generally able to be very much involved in the care for a loved one, and can be trained to serve as a primary caregiver, with a specialist to provide support when needed. Hospice provides 24/7 telephone nursing support. It is the unique nature of hospice that allows for the feeling of family and comfort to become embedded and vital in the patient’s care. This concept of more family interaction explains the overall goal of hospice — creating more moments of life before a life is over.

Hospice enables moments and memories that would otherwise not occur. It is the quality of these final moments, after all, that can define a “good death.”

November is National Hospice Month. Across the country, in communities like ours, hospices are honoring patients and families coping with life-limiting illness. Hospices are recognizing the professionals and volunteers who provide high quality care to those who need it most.

National Hospice Month also provides an opportunity to promote important discussions with our loved ones and our health care providers about the care we would want at the end of life.

It’s never too soon to explore your end-of-life options. 

To learn more contact Kauai Hospice at 245-7277 or visit www.kauaihospice.org

Lori J. Miller is executive director of Kauai Hospice

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