There are many questions to ask when making decisions about hospice care

Hospice My Way: Decisions About Hospice Care

Bethesda Health | August 9, 2018

The service Hospice Care provides is not about ending life, but how to make the most of life the hospice patient has remaining.  Therefore, whether you are a senior adult entering a hospice program or a family member who is helping to make this difficult decision for a loved one, you should know there is a team of hospice professionals who will work with you every step of the way.

When is it time for hospice?

Differing opinions and deep emotions are involved when considering hospice services. There are many questions that need to be asked when making decisions about hospice care for your loved one. At its most basic, however, hospice care should be considered when an illness has progressed to the point that there is no cure. At this point, pain management and comfort become the goals.

While arriving at that initial decision can be extremely difficult for all parties involved, many more decisions will need to be made during the hospice journey, and hospice staff are trained and experienced in meeting changing needs.

What care is needed?

According to Julie Strassman, Volunteer Coordinator and Bereavement Assistant with Bethesda Hospice Care, Bethesda’s hospice program is not a “one-size-fits-all” program. “We have an entire team working to make sure our care is individualized,” she says. “That means gaining a deep understanding of the patient, adult children, and other family members.”

Julie says that in order to personalize the care, the team needs to understand the care priorities. “For most people, that is comfort, but ‘comfort’ can mean a lot of different things,” she says. “And it’s not just physical care, but spiritual and emotional care and an awareness of the patient’s cultural needs.”

Along with medical care and supervision, Bethesda Hospice Care provides a chaplain experienced in a variety of religions, who can also call upon ministers of different faiths if needed. A social worker experienced in Hospice participants and their families can help provide emotional support. Aides provide physical care, assistance with bathing and dressing, and other duties. They also provide support for the in-home caregiver. If companionship is needed, volunteers can visit the home for additional emotional support.

Bethesda’s care plan is flexible, customized to meet the individual’s needs. Constant communication with the patient and family members allow the team to meet current needs and anticipate future ones. “We can always adjust the goals,” says Julie.

What are the goals?

“It is really important to be specific about your goals,” Julie says, “If your goal is that you want Mom to be as pain-free as possible, you must understand that the result is that she may not be as alert as she would be otherwise. You have to consider what is needed by Mom and the family.”

Another service of hospice is educating both the patient and the family. They can explain options and educate on end-of-life care.

Advance directives spell out what types of medical treatment a patient wants at the end of life. It also appoints a healthcare power of attorney; someone who makes medical decisions for the loved one once it is beyond their capacity to do so. The advance directive process allows for a more specific and thorough appraisal of what the senior will want the process to be like.

“There is no certain age to put together an advance directive,” says Julie. “We recommend everyone have one.”

Where will the care occur?

Bethesda Hospice Care can bring care into the senior’s home or at one of Bethesda’s communities. Regardless of location, the care is thorough and specific to the patient. In a skilled nursing community, family members and former caregivers do not have to perform the daily tasks for the senior that they did in the home. However, family and caregivers are still a vital part of the hospice patient’s care and support.

What happens after care ends?

When the care of the hospice patient ends, caring for family members does not have to. For families who request it, Bethesda Hospice Care checks in with family members for an additional 13 months. Free grief support services and counseling can be provided as well.

Support for Making Decisions About Hospice Care

At Bethesda, we believe every hospice patient deserves a comforting service that is unique to them. To learn more about our personalized hospice care, call us today at 314-446-0623.

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