The Hospice Foundation of America defines Hospice in the following way: “Hospice offers medical care toward a different goal: maintaining or improving quality of life for someone whose illness, disease or condition is unlikely to be cured.” They further note that “hospice is something more that is available to the patient and the entire family when curative measures have been exhausted and life prognosis is six months or less”.
What Does a Hospice Nurse Do?
A hospice nurse is an individual that provides comfort to patients, and education for all during the end of life process. If you've every had the good fortune to work with a hospice nurse, you know that they are amazing people. Hospice nurses understand many things about death and dying that most of us want to avoid… Until we can't.
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The Baltimore Sun recently published a really interesting article about John O'Malley, a retired government worker who had lost his wife to cancer in 2010. As difficult as death and dying are, Mr. O'Malley had a wonderful experience working through things with a hospice nurse. So much so, that 2 months later, he set a course to become one himself.
Five years later, O'Malley is dispensing the same compassionate care to dying patients and their families that he received; easing pains both literal and figurative, transforming death from a dark and frightening experience into a peaceful and sometimes even spiritual one. – Meredith Cohn, Reporter, The Baltimore Sun
There are many people like John O'Malley that go into nursing after experiencing an illness of a friend or family member, but it takes a special individual to become a hospice nurse. These fine people have a solid educational foundation, they are compassionate, they can face tough issues head-on, and they can work with families to minimize the stresses that are placed upon them.
List of Hospice Services
The Hospice Foundation of America lists some typical services that are covered when someone enters hospice care. Here are some of the most common:
- Time and services of the care team, including visits to the patient’s location by the hospice physician, nurse, medical social worker, home-health aide and chaplain/spiritual adviser
- Medication for symptom control or pain relief
- Medical equipment like wheelchairs or walkers and medical supplies like bandages and catheters
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Speech-language pathology services
- Dietary counseling
- Any other Medicare-covered services needed to manage pain and other symptoms related to the terminal illness, as recommended by the hospice team
- Short-term inpatient care (e.g. when adequate pain and symptom management cannot be achieved in the home setting)
- Short-term respite care (e.g. temporary relief from caregiving to avoid or address “caregiver burnout”)
- Grief and loss counseling for patient and loved ones
If you have personal experiences working with a hospice provider, or if you are a hospice provider we'd love to hear from you. Tell us about your experiences below in the comments section.