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
• 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.