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What is Hospice Care?

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A History of Hospice Care

Today, hospice care is considered a vital component of our modern healthcare system. However, while it has existed in various forms throughout history, it has only recently become a standard element of modern medicine. In 1969, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published her groundbreaking book, On Death and Dying, which contained over 500 interviews with terminally ill patients and emphasized the importance of in-home care and patient empowerment. In 1972 she testified in front of the US Senate about the importance of the right to make decisions about one’s end of life care and the right to die at home. It wasn’t until 1986 that hospice benefits were included in Medicare and states had the option to provide hospice care in their Medicaid programs, which made hospice care significantly more available to those in need.

What is Hospice Care?

Because the hospice care we see today is relatively new, there can be a lot of confusion around what hospice care entails, which leads us to our main question: What is hospice care? Hospice is a special kind of care that focuses on improving the quality of life of people living with a serious, terminal illness, typically with a prognosis of six months or less to live. Rather than trying to cure an illness, the goal of hospice is to manage physical symptoms and provide as much comfort, both physical and spiritual, as possible. At the heart of hospice care is honoring the patient’s wishes and helping each person live with dignity.

Some other important facts to know about hospice care are:

  1. Hospice care does not mean the end of ALL medication and treatment. While curing illness is no longer the goal, hospice patients are prescribed medications and treatment that will help alleviate suffering and improve quality of life.

  2. Hospice is a choice. Patients can choose to leave hospice at any time, or can choose to return to hospice as long as they meet eligibility requirements.

  3. Hospice comes to the patient. Hospice care happens where the patient prefers, whether that’s at home, in a skilled nursing facility, or in another location of the patient’s preference.

  4. Hospice is more than just medical care. Hospice is about caring holistically for the patient AND the patient’s family, including emotional and spiritual support and counseling.

  5. You can make a plan for hospice before it’s needed. Hospice care is most effective at improving a patient’s quality of life when it is implemented soon after a terminal diagnosis rather than later. Making a plan for a patient’s care in advance and communicating preferences and goals with physicians and caregivers ensures that each patient can receive the care they wish to receive. Part of this discussion may include advance directives such as living wills, medical powers of attorney, and other important documents.

At Firsthand Hospice, Inc., we are here to provide a range of services that make planning for hospice care easier. Our dedicated staff is here to provide advice, create customized care plans for patients, offer bereavement counseling and spiritual support, and provide patients with the best possible care in order to maintain their best quality of life while retaining their agency and dignity. Contact us today and let’s discuss how we can help you on your journey!

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