How Hospice Care Focuses on Quality of Life
With January being International Quality of Life Month, we thought it appropriate to explore how hospice care in Alameda County and elsewhere focuses on quality of life — not just for the person in hospice but for their family members as well. Briefly defined, quality of life is the standard of health, happiness, and comfort experienced by an individual or group. In this instance, health-related quality of life ranges from a holistic emphasis on the social, emotional, and physical well-being of people in hospice to the impact of one’s health on their ability to lead a fulfilling life points out the NIH.
Let’s define hospice care, too, while we’re at it. Hospice is a type of care focusing on the quality of life for individuals and their caregivers who are going through an advanced, life-limiting illness, according to the American Cancer Society. Hospice care offers compassionate care for people experiencing the end phases of an incurable disease so they are able to live as fully and comfortably as possible. Many people believe the hospice philosophy accepts death as the final stage of life, which is true, but more importantly, it affirms life at the same time.
While easy to define our last days by the fears, challenges, and worries that are consuming our thoughts and energies, it’s far more productive to focus on the beauty, love, and joy that can be found at the end of life. Life is indeed worth living, even when we face death. This is why hospice care providers encourage individuals and their families to think about the good, the grace, and the gratifying opportunities that are left.
The Quality of Life Philosophy
Experiencing a loved one facing end-of-life can put the entire family through great stress, turmoil, and sadness, all emotions that are very hard to sort out on your own. The hospice care philosophy involves respecting the rights of the patient and family members while keeping dignity and comfort intact. A big part of this is heeding the person’s wishes about where they will spend their remaining days. Many choose to be at home, surrounded by loved ones. Another part of it is to encourage the person to participate in their care decisions about how they want to spend their final days.
Everyone has different beliefs, desires, wishes, and choices as they approach their end-of-life journey. Hospice care must focus on those wishes as caregivers provide the best possible care for those last remaining days.
Care objectives include:
- Physical care: This focuses on relieving pain, discomfort, and other symptoms so the person in hospice can live with the least amount of physical or mental distress possible.
- Emotional support: This is for both the person in hospice and their family members, and it should extend throughout the illness’ course and even after they have passed, in the form of grief support and counseling for remaining family members.
- Encouragement for the patient to remain an active member of the whole family for as long as they can.
- Grief and bereavement counseling for family members up to a year or more after losing their loved one.
- Opportunities for family and friends to become part of a community-wide education process regarding hospice services.
A Time of Respite
Hospice care eases the burden on patients and their families by stopping curative treatments and instead focusing on pain control, physical care, symptom management, emotional and spiritual support, and respite for caregivers. The hospice care team, comprised of doctors, nurses, home health aides, clergy, social workers, and volunteers, all work together to ensure quality of life remains intact. They are trained to interact with patients and families as they begin to cope with advanced illness, as well as to manage healthcare transitions that gel with their wishes, goals, and values.
The hospice care team’s job at this time is to support the individual through daily tasks, spiritual enlightenment, pain management, emotional support, hygiene, and more. But there are also smaller moments peppered in there that help to celebrate a life well-lived. Hospice is also about the opportunity to share stories, hold heart-to-heart conversations, laugh about old times, talk about the unknown and take each day as it comes.
This much-needed time of respite gives the patient time to spend with family while prepping for the end-of-life journey, says Our Life Celebrations. Pain relief goes beyond alleviating physical pain. It also provides comfort on an emotional, social, spiritual, psychological, and existential level that can consume our thoughts as we approach end of life. In short, it’s a time of thoughtful goodbyes, closure, and embracing the end of life journey.
Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice
The caregivers at Pathways Home Health and Hospice help individuals and their families focus on the quality of life that remains. Find out more about what we do when you contact us at 888-978-1306.