Even when faced with imminent death, quality of life is important. January is International Quality Of Life Month, so if you have a loved one who is in hospice care in Alameda County and elsewhere, you will find this week’s article interesting. Here at Pathways, we always recognize the importance of reflection during end-of-life care, placing a high priority on ensuring our patients get the highest quality of life possible.

Living Better

It’s true that many medical advances have transformed several once-fatal diseases into chronic conditions that are able to be more easily managed, and it’s true that this leads to longer life spans. However, one can often overlook what is really important at the center of it all: not just to live longer, but to live better, points out Eisenhower Health Insights. Thus, the goal of hospice care is to help individuals maintain their quality of life while managing their serious illnesses. Medications often come with uncomfortable side effects, so even though the individual needs pain management, they still don’t feel their best, which can result in sleeplessness, nausea, loss of appetite, and shortness of breath.

On top of everything affecting their physical well-being, living with chronic disease can affect them spiritually, psycho-socially, and existentially. This in turn can spur depression, withdrawal, and fear. Resources that have been customized to fit the needs of hospice patients are critical in boosting the quality of life and putting them at ease.

Preparing For End of Life

As a society, people collectively shy away from the dying process. They don’t really want to talk about the end-of-life process due to the discomfort it brings them. This is understandable. In fact, even healthcare professionals aren’t exactly sure how to broach the subject with families, who they fear may panic at the mention of the word “hospice”. But while hospice is associated with end-of-life, it does not mean an automatic death sentence. The main goal is to make their experience a better one, whether for the next week or the next few months.

Hospice needs a plan. According to Rev. Brian Medkeff-Rose, a chaplain with Hospice of Central Pennsylvania, death should be prepared for just like birth is. The same attention should be paid to the dying process as the one given to the birthing process by parents-to-be. They attend birthing classes while preparing the nursery for the infant’s impending arrival. It sounds difficult on the other end because it is. Most people associate hospice with letting go, and giving up — a resignation of sorts that their loved one is imminently passing on. This can certainly be true, of course, but it’s also a time to pause and reflect on a life well lived, a time of celebration for what was in the past while preparing for what will be in the future.

During end-of-life care, reflection is critical and is indeed a big part of the healing process. It has advantages not just for the individual who is in hospice but for their family and friends as well. Acceptance of hospice care gives individuals the assurance that they are still in control of their own destiny and how they will spend their remaining days. The process is empowering, providing relief for friends and families.

Maintaining Focus

The issue of quality of life is often clouded due to the fact that hospice is so closely associated with death. But don’t lose the primary focus of care, which is to help the patient become as comfortable as possible. Pay special attention to symptom management and pain control so the individual can be as involved and alert as possible, says CancerCare. A team of hospice care providers is necessary to determine the needs of the patient, including nurses, doctors, social workers, pharmacists, and physical and occupational therapists. The hospice care team will work with the patient’s primary care doctor and specialists such as psychologists and oncologists to continue to provide the best quality of life. Every patient will have a different plan, which is why a customized plan at the outset is so important.

January is all about reflection, so take this time to assess quality of life for your relative or friend, ensuring their physical, emotional and spiritual needs are being met. It begins with a conversation, and rest assured, we are here to help facilitate this process.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

Facing hospice can be a daunting prospect, but our team here at Pathways Home Health and Hospice can set your mind at ease as the family member or the patient requiring care. To get the support you need to navigate this process, especially as part of International Quality of Life Month, please contact us at 888-755-7855. Our caregivers are available 24/7 to keep your loved one as comfortable as possible at this time, as well as mentally and emotionally engaged.