What is hospice care?
Hospice care is one of the world’s outstanding success stories. From the opening of the first modern hospice, St Christopher’s, in south London in1967, it has grown into a worldwide movement that has radically changed the way we approach death and dying. It is regarded by some as one of the greatest social innovations of the last hundred years. The driving force behind hospice, or palliative care is the desire to transform the experience of dying. Still in the 21st century in the world people die in avoidable pain and distress. In hospices multi-disciplinary teams strive to offer freedom from pain, dignity, peace and calm at the end of life.
Underpinning this care is a philosophy that takes as its starting point the affirmation of death as a natural part of life. Built on that bedrock are the values of respect, choice, empowerment, holistic care and compassion. Hospices care for the whole person, aiming to meet all needs – physical, emotional, social and spiritual. They care for the person who is dying and for those who love them, at home, in day care and in the hospice. Nearly half of all people admitted to a hospice return home again. The average length of stay is just 13 days. All care is free of charge.
Within hospices you will find a range of services – pain control, symptom relief, skilled nursing care, counseling, complementary therapies, spiritual care, art, music, physiotherapy, reminiscence, beauty treatments and bereavement support.
Staff and volunteers work in multi-professional teams to provide care based on individual need and personal choice.
The Hospice Concept
Hospice is a concept of caring derived from medieval times, symbolizing a place where travelers, pilgrims and the sick, wounded or dying could find rest and comfort. The contemporary hospice offers a comprehensive program of care to patients and families facing a life threatening illness. Hospice is primarily a concept of care, not a specific place of care.
Hospice emphasizes palliative rather than curative treatment; quality rather than quantity of life. The dying are comforted. Professional medical care is given, and sophisticated symptom relief provided. The patient and family are both included in the care plan and emotional, spiritual and practical support is given based on the patient’s wishes and family’s needs. Trained volunteers can offer respite care for family members as well as meaningful support to the patient.
Hospice affirms life and regards dying as a normal process. Hospice neither hastens nor postpones death. Hospice provides personalized services and a caring community so that patients and families can attain the necessary preparation for a death that is satisfactory to them.
Those involved in the process of dying have a variety of physical, spiritual, emotional and social needs. The nature of dying is so unique that the goal of the hospice team is to be sensitive and responsive to the special requirements of each individual and family.
Hospice care is provided to patients who have a limited life expectancy. Although most hospice patients are cancer patients, hospices accept anyone regardless of age or type of illness. These patients have also made a decision to spend their last months at home or in a homelike setting.