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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, November 06, 2019 1:00 am

Lasting memories in lingering moments

Patient, not disease, focus in hospice care

Leslie Friedel

Leslie Friedel is CEO of Visiting Nurse.

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, and it's a good time to remind those facing serious illnesses that choosing hospice services doesn't mean you're “giving up” on life. In fact, choosing hospice care means choosing to spend your time making meaningful memories with your loved ones as free from pain, nausea, anxiety and other symptoms as possible.

Hospice care is the model of high-quality, patient-focused, compassionate care that helps terminally ill patients and their families live as fully as possible. Hospice care treats the patient, not the disease.

The focus is on caring, not curing.

Hospice utilizes an interdisciplinary team of experienced health care professionals and trained volunteers who address symptom control and pain management and provide emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient's needs and wishes.

Whom is hospice care for? Anyone who:

• Has been diagnosed with a life-limiting disease with a life expectancy of six months or less if the disease process runs its normal course.

• Plans no further curative care or treatment.

• Is asking for comfort measures only, such as pain management and symptom control.

Something we often hear at Visiting Nurse is that families wish they had chosen hospice earlier in a patient's illness. The average time a person spends in hospice depends on the illness he or she is facing, but studies have repeatedly shown longer survival times when a patient chooses to discontinue attempts at curative treatment and enrolls in hospice care.

A 2007 study that looked at Medicare beneficiaries with some of the most common diagnoses leading to death found that patients who received hospice services lived, on average, 29 days longer than those who did not receive hospice care. This study, published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management (March 2007) looked at 4,493 terminally ill patients with either congestive heart failure or cancer of the breast, colon, lung, pancreas or prostate.

Those extra days can be filled with time with loved ones, reminiscing and enjoying meaningful moments. With support from nurses, home health aides, therapists, social workers, chaplains and volunteers, the patient and the family are encircled by a community of care.

Below is a list of questions developed by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization that one should consider when looking for a hospice program.

• What services are provided?

• What kind of support is available to the family/caregiver?

• What roles do the attending physician and hospice play?

• What does the hospice volunteer do?

• How does hospice work to keep the patient comfortable?

• How are services provided after hours?

• How and where does hospice provide short-term inpatient care?

• With which nursing homes or long-term care facilities does the hospice work?

• How long does it typically take the hospice to enroll someone once the request for services is made?

Visiting Nurse has provided hospice care for decades and has served northeast Indiana since 1888. As we reflect on our long history in the region, we are honored to have cared for so many generations of Hoosiers and their families.