What is a Hospice and Palliative Care Social Worker?

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By: Nicole Brandon

Social Work is a profession dedicated to helping individuals, families, groups and communities to enhance their individual and collective well-being. It aims to help people develop their skills and their ability to use their own resources and those of the community to resolve problems. A Hospice and Palliative Care Social Worker is an expert in their field. They have the privilege to provide knowledge and skill in direct services to the patients and families. This includes conducting psychosocial assessments, coordinating care, providing counseling, intervening in client crisis situations, and educating patients and families regarding end of life, grief, bereavement and the available resources.

Hospice and palliative care social workers provide care to patients and families as an integral member of an interdisciplinary team that consists of an Registered Nurse, Chaplain, Certified Nurses Aid, Medical Director, and attending Physician. This team-oriented approach to expert medical care, aggressive pain and symptom management, and emotional and spiritual support is directly based on the patient and families’ assessed needs and expressed wishes.  At the center of hospice and palliative care is the belief that each of us has the right to live with optimal quality, die with dignity and comfort, and that our families should receive the necessary support to allow us to do so.  A hospice social worker is relied upon to be an expert in end of life care and have the skills and knowledge to manage the diverse needs of patients and families.

Some of the necessary skills a hospice social worker must possess include:

  • The ability to recognize signs and symptoms of impending death and prepare family members in a manner that is guided by clinical assessment.
  • Competence in facilitating communication among patients, family members, interdisciplinary care team members, and non-hospice care providers.
  • Competence in integrating grief theories into practice.
  • Competence in determining appropriate interventions based on assessments.
  • Competence in advocating for clients, family members, and caregivers for needed services, including pain management.
  • Competence in navigating a complex network of resources and making appropriate referrals/connections.
  • Competence in supporting patients, families, and caregivers including anticipatory grief/grieving process and bereavement.
  • Individual counseling, family counseling, family-team conferencing, and crisis counseling.
  • Information and education.
  • Multidimensional interventions related to patient and family centered care plan.
  • Resource counseling (including caregiving resources; alternate level of care options such as long term care or hospice care; financial and legal needs; advance directives; and

permanency planning for dependents).

It is a gift to be invited into the lives of our patients and families at such a special time, and we strive, along with all members of the team, to provide the most comfortable, peaceful and dignified transition possible.

If you would like more information on hospice and palliative care services please call us at 970-776-8080 or 303-957-3101, or email: info@frhospice.com

 

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What it Means to be a Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse

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By Victor Montour

Hospice and Palliative Care nursing has much more depth and meaning than most are aware of. Hospice and palliative care nurses seek to help patients live life to its fullest during the most traumatic or vulnerable time in their lives. Rather than restrict what patients can do, hospice and palliative nurses help patients and families figure out the best plan to continue spending quality time with loved ones and doing the activities they enjoy most. We call this making the best days possible for our patients.

We have the ultimate respect for the lives of our patients and their families. While helping them live their best days possible, the hospice and palliative care team also allows each person to maintain as much independence as possible for as long as possible. Because we help to support independence, our patients feel more respected, more comfortable and maintain their dignity while living their best life.

Hospice and palliative care team have the unique opportunity to work long-term with the same patients and families. This long-term partnership allows the nurse to develop develop a bond many with our patients and families that many nurses are not able to do. Often nurses are working with patients on a shorter time frame in a hospital or clinic setting. Whereas the hospice and palliative nurse becomes the one of the most important people in a patient and families lives as they near their last days.

Because of hospice and palliative nurses, patients’ and families are better prepared and experience less stress at the time of their loved one’s death. Nurses who work in hospice and palliative care are given a special opportunity to guide patients and their families through a very difficult time and hopefully provide all involved the closure, comfort and peace they need and deserve.

In addition to supporting families through the emotionally trying time of a loved one’s disease process or death, a hospice and palliative care nurse also provides education and resources so that family members are prepared to help care for and spend time with their loved one. These nurses empower families to take care of their loved ones at home or in the environment the patient calls home.

A relative who isn’t medically trained may be afraid to care for their loved one, but a hospice and palliative care nurse help to change that. Our nurses teach families how to manage symptoms when nursing staff is not present. The teaching provided is so that family can have the confidence that they are taking care of their loved ones to help create the best days possible.

Hospice and palliative care nursing make it possible for patients to pass away with dignity and pride while in the comfort of where they call home. Hospice nurses add to their patients’ quality of life by relieving discomfort and allowing them to spend their remaining days in the home they know and love rather than a hospital environment. These simple acts of caring make a meaningful impact on our families.

Hospice and palliative care nursing isn’t a job—it’s a calling for most hospice and Palliative Care nurses. Some nurses can fully embrace that calling and are able to find enjoyment in their work, despite the difficult and emotionally trying times they may experience. Hospice and palliative care nursing like most nursing is not easy, but it is worthwhile.

Caring for the loved ones of others during the twilight of their lives can obviously be an emotionally challenging task. But don’t mistake that challenge as something that’s completely sad and draining—as you can see there’s a lot of potential for a career in hospice and palliative care to be emotionally fulfilling.

If you think you’re ready to become a Hospice or Palliative Care nurse and provide a peaceful end-of-life setting for patients and their families—Call us at 970-776-8080 or 303-957-3101 or email us at info@frhospice.com

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What is a Chaplain?

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By: Hope Golden

Chaplains are leaders in the spiritual ministry of patients in palliative care (PC) and hospice (HO). They are professionally trained clergy who recognize the spiritual needs of individuals facing the impact of a terminal illness. When patients and families are facing a life-limiting diagnosis, the prognosis can be intimidating and confusing.

During the last stages of life, spiritual issues can most assuredly rise to the top of the care list. It shows up in behavior like anger, anxiety, grief, and combativeness, as well as joy and acceptance. Each affected person will deal with reality differently. As each person reflects, a myriad of concerns can arise, needing the attention of a spiritual leader.

Palliative care and hospice chaplains are different from pastors and priests in that their single primary goal is to journey with a patient spiritually as they deal with a specific diagnosis. Hospice chaplains walk with patients and their impacted community of loved ones, and the caring staff members, all traveling and facing the trajectory of a patient’s life-limiting illness. The chaplains aim to bring comfort throughout the journey until the patient recovers in PC, or until the HO patient’s transition is complete.

Palliative care and hospice chaplains are members of an interdisciplinary team (IDT) that most often includes a Medical Director, Registered Nurse, Certified Nursing Assistant, and Social Worker. The team works together with other administrative staff, volunteers, and caregivers to promote excellent care for the whole person, mind, body, and soul. Chaplains specialize in listening, especially for the right place for a thoughtful comment or question that moves the traveler closer to peace.

People commit to spirituality through many means, chaplains help patients recall what brings them peace.  Are they members of any religious group? What are their personal beliefs, dreams and aspirations, rituals, family rites, and community experiences? Any of these might impact their thoughts or wishes at this time in their lives.

Spiritual healing can include referrals to more appropriate religious caregivers.  The patient may find hope in someone listening, playing music, playing cards, saying prayers, reading a devotion, a story, or performing a ritual ceremony, or life review.   Patients may desire to deal with hurts, habits, and hang-ups that are causing distress. The type of support a patient may need is tailored reasonably to each individual.

Chaplains are privileged to be part of some of the most precious moments in the lives of people. They, along with the whole team of caring people, provide an opportunity for the most pleasant and peaceful recovery during palliative care or transition on hospice.

If you would like more information on hospice or palliative care please contact us at 303-957-3101 or 970-776-8080, or by email at info@frhospice.com

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Assisted Living Communities and Hospice Care

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Many assisted living communities embrace an “aging in place” philosophy meaning that residents receive increasing levels of care without having to leave the community. This allows residents to stay in their community for as long as they choose – from assisted living to end-of-life hospice care – which removes a lot of the uncertainty from the long-term care planning.

To accommodate residents through end-of-life, many assisted living communities allow hospice care providers to visit residents who are terminally ill. Hospice care, which is covered by Medicare and most private health insurance plans, provides what’s known as comfort care in a team approach — care that eases pain, alleviates discomfort, provides psychological support and spiritual support  when a patient’s illness is no longer responding to treatment.

Hospice teams do much more than provide medications such as painkillers and sedatives. They educate the patient’s primary caregiver as well as provide emotional and spiritual support and counseling to the patient and the patient’s loved ones. The goal is to allow the patient to have a comfortable and dignified exit from this life.

Hospice Care

A common misconception about hospice is that it’s somewhere patients go. While there are some hospice facilities, they are fairly rare. Hospice teams visit patients in their own homes, wherever that happens to be. For assisted living residents, of course, the community is their home.

A growing number of assisted living communities are able to accommodate residents who need hospice care during their time at the community. No assisted living community can guarantee that they will be able to accommodate a resident until their last days. Certain scenarios may require that a terminally ill resident be moved to a nursing home or hospital. But if the resident doesn’t need the kind of care or attention that’s provided at a hospital or nursing home, he or she can very often remain at the senior community with the aid of the hospice team.

Your hospice team will work hard for the resident who is receiving hospice care, work hard for the community to ensure the community understands the specific needs of the resident receiving hospice services. Some of the items that will be addressed by the hospice team are:

  • Medication orders
  • Treatment orders
  • Diet orders
  • Wound Management
  • Medical Equipment Needs
  • ADL assistance
  • Counseling Support
  • Spiritual Support
  • Dignity
  • Privacy
  • Honoring Residents Wishes
  • Following or Developing Advance Directives for Residents
  • Monthly Care Coordination Meetings with the Assisted Living

 

All hospice care is customized care and tailored to the needs of the resident in need of hospice services. The hospice team will work together with the staff of the assisted living to coordinate a plan of care that works best for the resident.

For more information about Front Range Hospice and Palliative Care please call (303)957-3101 or (970)776-8080 or email us at info@frhospice.com

“When medicine cannot provide a cure, hospice can offer assistance; care and comfort that can help maintain a better quality of life for the patient.”

 

 

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Hospice Provides Comfort Care for Seniors

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As baby boomers get older, the need for senior services has increased, and geriatric medicine has become a booming business. When there is also a terminal diagnosis, the family must deal with the stress that comes with the illness and aging. Most people turn to hospice for medical and emotional support.

The Hospice Team

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization believes end-of-life services should be painless and compassionate. To support the patient and the family, they not only provide a team of professionals to help with medical treatment and pain management, but they also offer spiritual and emotional support. Their goal is to give patients and their families the resources they need to die with dignity.

The hospice team includes the following people:
• Patient’s personal doctor
• Hospice medical director or physician
• Registered nurses
• Certified nursing assistants
• Chaplain
• Social workers
• Trained volunteers

Hospice provides a wide range of services for families and patients:
• Treats pain and symptoms
• Provides medication, supplies and equipment
• Helps with spiritual and emotional aspects of dying
• Shows the family how to help
• Offers grief counseling to family and friends’

Hospice and the Senior Citizen

Hospice, also known as comfort care, makes patients comfortable instead of treating their illness. It is not, for example, for seniors who are undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. It is for those who don’t want further treatment or for those who no treatment is available. Whether someone has a rare disorder like mesothelioma, a fatal cancer caused by asbestos exposure, or a more common form of lung cancer, hospice will treat breathing difficulties and discomfort that comes from the disease, but it will not treat the disorder. In addition to medical services, hospice provides equipment like wheelchairs, oxygen and breathing treatments to make life easier for the patient.

Depending on the severity of the illness, seniors may receive hospice services at home or in care facility. Depending on the individual situation, private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or the Veteran’s Administration may pay for the services. For patients who stay at home, hospice nurses and caregivers come into the home to provide intermittent care. Nursing homes collaborate with hospice teams when hospice is appropriate.

People who don’t understand what hospice does sometimes hesitate to offer or accept comforting care to dying seniors. Hospice does not take anything away from its patients. Instead, it gives them what they need to make their last days as comfortable as possible. Every patient is different, and each one has a special team to meet those needs.

Article by Tia Phelps: Accomplished writer and editor on cancer studies and research.

 

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What to Expect During the Hospice Journey

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By: Lucille Rosetti

When someone you love is entering hospice care, it can be hard to know what to expect.  If you haven’t been in this situation before, you might not even know what questions you want to ask, only that the path is unfamiliar.  I have assembled some important information to help you navigate the journey and feel more at ease.

What is hospice?

When someone starts hospice, this means doctors have determined that person could be in the final stages of life.  When starting hospice, both the patient and family have agreed to put quality of life over curative treatment.  Hospice provides peaceful methods for managing end-of-life pain to help your loved one savor the time they have left.  Your loved one will either remain at home or in a care facility.

If you haven’t done so already, it’s important to talk with your loved one about end-of-life arrangements.  Reader’s Digest points out this conversation can bring a surprising amount of comfort to you both, putting minds at ease.  It’s also important to know where to look for critical documents such as a will, medical durable power of attorney, CPR directive, and so forth.  If your loved one isn’t sure about the paperwork, locate it before it is needed and if you are unable to locate the appropriate documents you can initiate new ones.

Comfort in the care team

The hospice care team is comprised of various personnel who will work together to ensure your loved one’s optimal quality of life.  Doctors, nurses, CNAs, chaplains, and social workers typically play an active part in helping with hospice care.

Hospice social workers often play a particularly integral role, evaluating your loved one’s needs and desires, and developing a plan to meet them.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their background and education, since familiarity with their qualifications can put your mind more at ease. As an example, these individuals must complete an accredited Master’s of Social Work program.  Numerous universities throughout the U.S. provide classes both online and on campus, and in the course of completing their requirements, hospice social workers often perform anywhere from 900 to 1,200 hours of field work.

Throughout the hospice stay, the social worker will help coordinate the care team. Your hospice social worker can help with understanding the physical process of dying, and chaplains are often called upon for spiritual concerns.  The multidisciplinary approach of hospice helps alleviate distress, as well as pain and other symptoms.  Your loved one might receive a variety of supportive services while in hospice, such as special dietary considerations, prescriptions, or counseling.  If a potentially treatable issue should arise, such as a bladder infection or pneumonia, it can, in most cases, be treated.

End-of-life symptoms

If you have never been with someone who is dying before, it can be helpful to know how to recognize the signs someone has reached the end of their life.  As Verywell Health explains, there are 12 symptoms someone has entered the dying process, which are:

  • Pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anxiety
  • Reduced appetite and thirst
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Sleeping more
  • Changed social interaction; more withdrawn or more attached
  • Delirium or restlessness
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Mottled skin
  • Rattled breathing

When your loved one experiences these symptoms, it’s important to be accommodating.  The team can help with pain management, anxiety, and other symptoms, and if your loved one prefers time alone or more time with family and friends, try to respect those wishes. Under most circumstances, physical contact during the last moments is both acceptable and encouraged, and can console both you and your loved one.

The hospice journey is oriented toward your loved one’s peace and comfort.  While the patient is the focus, it’s important for family members and friends to learn what to expect.  The team is there to support your loved one, and you can feel more at ease through questions, understanding, and preparation.

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Your Own Memorial: How to Cope with Loss from a Distance

blogPhoto by Kristina Tripkovic on Unsplash

Guest Blogger: Janice Miller

When you’ve lost a friend or family member but you live a long distance away from them, it’s not always possible to make arrangements to be there for their memorial. You may not have the travel funds or be able to get the time off from work you need to get there — especially if the death was sudden. This can lead to feelings of guilt and helplessness on top of the many emotions associated with grief. That’s why it can be very helpful to lend a helping hand to those mourning in whatever way you can. Additionally, finding a way to honor to your loved one’s memory yourself can be a powerful source of healing and closure.

Managing Your Own Grief

If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t care for anyone else. Whether you’re a novice when it comes to losing people or you’ve dealt with grief before, it’s never easy. Make sure you are caring for yourself and keeping up healthy habits that support your self-care habits and physical and mental well-being. It’s okay to let yourself feel bad when thinking about your loss, but balance out the time you spend grieving with activities that make you feel good. Exercise to get a rush of feel-good endorphins and release any stress you may be carrying. Enjoy the mood-boosting benefits of hanging out with your pets. Throw a small dinner party and nourish yourself with good food and company. Read to de-stress, get in touch with your emotions, and improve sleep. Whatever it is that comforts you during this difficult time, pursue it while avoiding unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking, compulsive spending, and comfort eating.

Helping from Afar

The key to helping your grieving loved ones when you can’t be there in person is communication. Get in touch with one contact person with whom you can coordinate and ask if there is anything that the family needs. They may be able to include you on a meal train or ask you to contact other friends who do not have received the tragic news yet. It’s best to have a single point-of-contact rather than trying to coordinate with multiple people because the simplicity cuts down on the chance of miscommunication.

There isn’t one best practice for what to do when you miss a funeral. You can send a sympathy card or flowers, but it really depends on your style. Some people find that cards and plants are wasteful and prefer to donate to a charity in the deceased’s name. If you have the funds available, a great way to help is by paying for housekeeping services for the spouse or parents of the deceased. People who have lost an immediate family member often neglect everyday chores while they adjust to their new reality. Having someone come in to help with these tasks ensures they aren’t surrounded by stress-inducing messiness while they grieve.

A Long-Distance Memorial

Helping the loved ones they left behind is a wonderful way of honoring the deceased’s memory. However, finding ways to commemorate your loved one yourself can also be a helpful catalyst for moving on. Think of a way to do it that is both unique while reflecting your friend or family member’s values. For instance, if they were a staunch environmentalist, consider planting a tree in their memory. Or, if they left behind a young child with a bright future, set up a college fund where people can contribute. Or, simply spend a day committed to doing things that you loved to do when together and keep their memory with you through every moment. Your memorial should be as personal as your relationship with the deceased.

Grieving from afar isn’t easy, but sometimes it’s necessary and unavoidable. Tend to your own emotions, and keep up healthy habits that contribute to both your physical and mental wellness and self-care practices. Do what you can to help from afar, whether that’s sending food or contacting friends so the family doesn’t have to. Finally, make time to do a small memorial for yourself where you honor the deceased and provide an opportunity for closure.

 

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