November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month! You may be wondering…why in the world would we want to celebrate this? And what even are these terms?
Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage of the illness, and can be provided along with curative treatment. Hospice care is specifically focused on those diagnosed with a terminal illness and who are projected to have 6 months or less to live. I am interning with a start-up hospice agency in Wichita, KS called Compassion Within Hospice, so I will speak from that experience.
Although hospice consists of services for those near the end of life, it can be a beautiful journey. This care focuses on managing pain and other symptoms of disease progression while supporting the whole family around the emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of death and dying. Hospice also provides support to those navigating the loss of their loved one through grief and bereavement services. These services are provided by an interdisciplinary team consisting of a combination of physicians, nurses, aides, social workers, chaplains, and volunteers. There are endless questions and emotions that patients and loved ones may face during the end-of-life process. The care team is present willing to walk with others on this journey.
Many believe hospice care is where people go when they surrender to death. However, I have found this to be just the opposite. This is where people come to live: to experience their last meaningful moments in life. I have witnessed extraordinary care and indescribable moments of serenity in this work. It is excruciating to know a loved one is dying, but the support of hospice can help create moments to be remembered as a gift.
The interdisciplinary team understands the fear and tension associated with end-of-life, and they work to support patients and families in a holistic way. Having professionals who are passionate about this work significantly changes the end-of-life experience.
Hospice helps people prepare for death by living with the highest quality of life possible. THAT is why we celebrate this month. We hope that you are able to celebrate the mission of hospice with us this month, and that you support this work in your community any way you can!
To search for additional support groups and resources near you, search here.