I write about the subject of hospice care today because November is National Hospice Care month. I don't usually pay attention to the themes of specific months but in this case I saw a tweet about it and wanted to draw attention to the incredible people who do this important work.
I have the greatest respect for the people who do hospice work. The time and endless amounts of energy poured into this work of providing compassionate care to those diagnosed as terminally ill is critical to the patient and the families trying to do their best as a loved one reaches the end of their life.
Each year in the United States, more than 1.58 million people with a life-limiting illness receives care from hospice care givers, according to a report by the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization. Most hospice care is given at home, allowing people to be surrounded by their friends and family in the last stages of their life.
I was told by my husband's doctors that the best time to learn about hospice care is before you need it. No one really knows when and if that time will come but it is wise to prepare. As hard as it is to think about the possibility of using hospice services, hospice care organizations have decades of experience and are invaluable to family members who need a break from the physically and emotionally exhausting work of trying to do all of the caregiving by themselves.
My husband did not need hospice at the end of his life but just in case it became necessary to have hospice come to the house to help me, I met with a one of their nurses. She was very calm and reassuring about what happens when hospice becomes involved with your loved one. She emphasized to me that hospice care is not about giving up; it is more of a focus on comfort and care and respect. It gave me strength to know that hospice would be there should I ever need it.
For myself, I find it hard to imagine doing this work if you don't know the person who is ill. Taking care of someone when you don't know them and know that they aren't going to get better requires an immeasurable amount of faith, inner peace and compassion. This is only a few of the reasons why the people who do hospice care are so special. They embrace the patient and their family and are honored to take care of your loved one and to try to enhance the quality of their life in the time they have remaining.
Ladies Home Journal recently ran an inspiring story called, "It Doesn't Have To Be Sad: The Life of A Hospice Nurse." It is a revealing story from a nurse's perspective about being with terminally ill patients and what it feels like to help dying patients through their final days. Here is the link: