General Purpose of the Department:
As we have learned, the hospice idea is not new. Literally meaning "given to hospitality," hospices provided comfort, kindness, and nourishment to people in need hundreds of years ago. Today, hospices offer comfort to people as they near the end of life's journey.
Hospice is a special way of caring for people with terminal illnesses and their families. It is a multidisciplinary health care program that is responsible for palliative and supportive care with consideration of the patient's and families wishes. Hospice focuses on care, not cure.
Hospice care is important because it provides many benefits that aren't possible in a traditional acute or long-term health care setting. Within hospice, the family of the patient is directly involved in making decisions and helping their loved one. Hospice also gives the patient to have a great amount of control by deciding where they want to spend the rest of their lives. It can also help make choices about advanced directives which we will discuss shortly.
Major Functions of the Department:
Hospice is a very unique department because it truly looks at the "big picture" and treats a spectrum of patient needs equally. Special attention is given to:
Physical needs - this is the first and foremost function. Within hospice you are dealing with a patient that has been given a diagnosis of having 6 months or less to live. For many patients, relieving pain through medication is an important part of hospice care. I have provided you with a list of ways that patients are made more comfortable. A goal of hospice it to help patients use their physical abilities as fully as possible.
Social Needs - Sometimes little things make all the difference to people. Although these patients may not be as active as before their illness, you can see on your handout a list of things that they probably still enjoy. Hospice can help to make these things happen, as well as provide assistance with practical issues like putting finances in order.
Emotional Needs: Hospice can help patients cope with loneliness, isolation, and the fear of being abandoned. This is outlined on your handout as to how the hospice staff accomplishes this. Hospice also helps friends and families of the patient express their emotions through group and bereavement counseling.
Spiritual Needs - the realization that a person's spirituality is of a daily concern to the patient has led hospice care to this area. Hospice tries to organize the types of care outlined on your handout. Members of the clergy can also help family and friends who are in need of spiritual support.
As you can now see, there are many areas of patient care that hospice has a direct focus on. This now brings me to the subject of the people involved: the staff. Staffing of the Department:
As with all departments, the actual number of staff will vary by facility. However, there are required members of the staff that must have certain qualifications. For instance, there must be nurses to do in-home care. These nurses can be either RN's or LPN's depending on the level of patient care involved. In addition is a staff physician who consults with the patient's primary care physician and helps to oversee the patient care plan. In addition, there are is a staff psychiatrist and a psychologist who do individual and family counseling, volunteer visits, holiday programs, support groups, and learning about loss and grief. Some hospices help with funeral arrangements. Also part of the hospice team are the hospice coordinator or director, other consulting physicians and specialists, a member of the clergy, a social worker, a dietitian, a pharmacist, therapists who perform physical and occupational therapy. Also there are home care aides and volunteers. Hospice members offer care for patients on-call 24-hours a day.
Depending on the patient's needs at the time, hospice care is...