End of Life Care in Alameda County Holds Quality of Life High in its Priorities
January is International Quality of Life Month, which is very fitting since this first month of the year symbolizes a new beginning and an ideal time to reflect on the quality of life and its purpose. Here at Pathways Home Health and Hospice, we recognize the importance of reflection particularly during end of life care. Thus, we place a high priority in ensuring our patients in Alameda County enjoy the highest quality of life they can, even in hospice.
While medical advances have certainly transformed many once-fatal diseases into chronic conditions that can be more readily managed, leading to longer life spans, it can be easy to overlook what’s really important at the core of it all: not just living longer, but living better, says Eisenhower Health Insights. Thus, helping patients maintain quality of life while managing serious illnesses is the goal of palliative and hospice care. Medications designed to manage an illness often have uncomfortable side effects, so while the patient needs pain management, they’re still not feeling their best. This can manifest in anything from sleeplessness and loss of appetite to nausea and shortness of breath.
In addition to their physical well-being that’s affected, living with chronic disease takes a big toll on the patient spiritually, existentially and psycho-socially, bringing on depression, fear or withdrawal. Customized resources designed to fit the needs of each hospice patient are necessary in order to boost the quality of life and put the patient at ease as much as possible.
Preparing for End of Life
Culturally, we as a society tend to shy away from the dying process, preferring not to talk about the end of life process because it’s uncomfortable. Even healthcare professionals don’t always know how to best broach the subject, as many families panic at the mere mention of hospice. However, hospice doesn’t mean an automatic death sentence. Yes, it’s associated with end of life, but its primary goal is to make the patient experience a better quality of life, whether that’s for the next month or the next year.
Hospice involves making a plan. Rev. Brian Medkeff-Rose, chaplain with Hospice of Central Pennsylvania, feels that death should be prepared for with the same attention given to birth. While we as parents-to-be are eager to attend birthing classes and prepare the nursery for baby’s impending arrival, we should give that same attention to the dying process. This can be a tough thing to face because it’s just so painful. Many people feel hospice is a letting-go, a resignation that their loved one will be passing on. While it is that in many ways, it’s also a time for reflection of a life well lived, a time to celebrate what was and prepare for what will be.
Reflection during end of life care is critical, however, as it’s an integral start to the healing process. It can be beneficial not just for the patient but for the family as well. Acceptance of hospice care assures patients that they still have a say in their own destiny and how they will live out their remaining days. It’s empowering and it provides relief for entire families.
Maintaining the Focus of Hospice Care
Because hospice is so closely associated with death, the issue of quality of life is often clouded. However, the primary focus of care is helping the patient to be as comfortable as possible. Thus, special attention should be paid to symptom management and pain control, allowing the patient to be as alert and involved in life as possible, says CancerCare. It takes a dedicated team of hospice care providers to know how to best meet the needs of the patient, including doctors, nurses, social workers, physical and occupational therapists, and pharmacists. The hospice care team collaborates with the patient’s primary care physician as well as any specialists such as oncologists and psychologists to provide the best quality of life. This will be different for every patient, which is why the team will develop a plan that’s tailored to the individual.
As January signals reflection, this is a good time to assess quality of life for your loved one and ensure his or her physical needs, as well as emotional and spiritual needs, are being met.
It all starts with a conversation with your loved one. We can help facilitate this process.
Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice
Facing hospice can be a scary prospect, but the team at Pathways Home Health and Hospice can put your mind at ease as the patient or as the family member. To get additional support as you navigate this process, especially during International Quality of Life Month, please contact us at 888-755-7855. Our compassionate caregivers are available 24/7 to keep your loved one mentally and emotionally engaged and as comfortable as possible at this time.