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Compassionate End of Life Care: from a Hospice Professional’s Point of View

Written by Curvonna Harris
Published on September 21, 2023

Hospice is a word that is not an easy conversation starter. It is still quite taboo in many households across the United States. However, hospice care is now the reality in your household. You and your loved one are mentally and emotionally processing the news of a terminal diagnosis. A million questions are floating through your mind. Where do we go from here? Where should we start? How do we pick the best care and what does that even look like? Let’s navigate asking frequently asked questions, what’s really important in hospice care, and finding your hospice match. Cheers to a front row seat into a hospice professionals heart! 

Common Questions to Ask the Hospice Team

  1. Is the hospice Medicare certified? (National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, 2019)
  2. How long has the hospice been in the community? (National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, 2019)
  3. Who does their clinical team consist of?
  4. Do all staff members’ credentials reflect hospice training?  
  5. What happens if the patient or caregiver declines hospice and wants to pursue curative treatment again?

Now Let’s Get Specific

  1. Are there any extra services offered to patients and their families? (National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, 2019)
  2. Is bereavement offered for family members and if so, for how long? 
  3. Does the hospice have established contracts with local long term care facilities with high patient/family satisfaction for respite stays? If so, what is the maximum amount of days a patient can have a respite stay in the facility? 
  4. Does the hospice have a solid volunteer base? What does their orientation and training look like? What services can they offer? 
  5. How does the hospice specifically honor veteran patients? (National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, 2019)

The Reason Why… from a Hospice Heart

As a hospice professional, I work with families to provide them with respite and bereavement support from the start of care. It’s important to ask the above mentioned questions to find your hospice match. You want to be sure they offer extra services such as music therapy, pet therapy, as well as memorial and bereavement keepsakes. I notice that families feel extra support when the hospice team attends their loved ones memorial or funeral. It’s critical that bereavement services are offered to the patient’s family, whether it be in-person and phone visits, or group sessions. I’ve seen the most positive outcomes when family members receive bereavement visits from at least six to eight weeks or more.

Respite Care for Your Loved One

In order to reduce stress and enhance self care, respite stays for your loved one is essential to eliminating familial burnout. This also ensures your loved one maintains great care by other long term care professionals. A facility that has the capacity to accommodate respite stays for up to 30 days is ideal! If you have a planned vacation or simply need time to recharge, you can do so with a calmer spirit. Having established contracts with long term care facilities adds to higher family satisfaction with care and comfort.

Diverse Volunteer Services

Volunteers are a crucial puzzle piece to your end of life care journey. You want to be sure that the hospice has a strong volunteer base. Volunteers can provide direct companionship throughout the week and weekend, in addition to serving as short daily respite opportunities. I highly recommend asking questions about the services volunteers can provide your loved one and family. Outside of direct companionship, volunteers can assist in grocery pickups, help your loved one write their life story, or write letters to other family members. Inquiring about volunteers orientation and training process is key in accepting this service. You want to be certain that the volunteer is properly trained and received continued education in death and dying, grief support, and highly proficient in communicating with the clinical team for any changes observed in your loved one.

Honoring Veterans

In all, be sure the hospice you choose honors all veteran patients for their service to our country! In my experience, a veterans pinning ceremony is the perfect way to honor the service and sacrifice your loved one has provided us all. The ceremony can be as small or big as the veteran would like. We provide a thankful speech, song, salute, pin, certificate of service, and plenty of pictures if allowed. Veterans are also matched specifically to volunteers who have served in the military.

Choosing the Right Hospice Care

Please know that I take a piece of your loved one with me each day, valuing the time we’ve spent together, wisdom and lessons learned, as well as supporting you all through the end of life journey. I am honored to have been entrusted to care for your loved one and it has made my hospice heart fuller each day. If you or someone you know is struggling with navigating end of life care and could use some help with choosing a hospice team, contact us today. Our team of compassionate professionals are here to help.

References:

“Choosing a Quality Hospice for You and Your Loved Ones.” National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization , 2019, www.nhpco.org.

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