Halloween is just around the corner. Soon an army of costumed little humans will be running up to my house, ringing the doorbell and demanding treats. Unlike me, they don’t have to do any tricks to get a treat from my mom. But if she doesn’t give them treats, they may trick us! It’s very confusing.
Like Halloween, the idea of hospice care can be mysterious and frightening. Betsy Kane, RN, a hospice field nurse for THA Group’s Island Hospice, says, “One of the most common misconceptions about hospice is that it is only called for during the last hours of life.” Because of this, only about half of those eligible for hospice care ever receive it. Even if a patient is ready for hospice care, sometimes family members fear that employing hospice will “hasten the end” for their loved one. Additionally, anxiety about the cost of hospice care can slow the hospice process, as many people don’t know that hospice care is often fully funded by insurance or Medicare. Kane states, “Many times, a patient or family member has unrealistic ideas about what occurs during hospice care. This is a good opportunity to talk about their feelings and to discuss the reality of hospice care.”
The reality is that hospice care’s value is far greater than the fears surrounding it. “Hospice is about quality,” says Kelly Platt, a Medical Social Worker for Island Hospice. Studies show that hospice care improves quality of life and extends life expectancy. The average hospice patient lives almost a month longer than people with similar conditions who refuse hospice care. One in five patients “graduate” from hospice – they either get better or their decline levels off and they leave the program. For many seriously ill patients, hospice care offers a more dignified and comfortable alternative to spending their final months in the impersonal environment of a hospital. Seeking hospice care isn’t about giving up hope or hastening death, but rather a way to get the most appropriate care in the last phase of life.
Because death is scary for the living as well as the dying, hospice aims to comfort the whole family. Hospice care combines the care of nurses, chaplains, social workers and volunteers (like me!) in the lives of patients and their families at their time of need. These workers become part of the family, and many work for hospice because of the difference it made for loved ones in their own lives. When asked how she handles the difficulties of being a hospice nurse, Kane says, “We get very close with our patients, their families and caregivers. It’s important to be supported by a strong team.”
Don’t be spooked by the idea of hospice care. If you or a loved one would like more information about hospice, call 888-842-4663 to speak with one of our hospice experts.
I hope you all have a safe and fun-filled Halloween! Don’t forget to keep all that candy (including empty wrappers) away from your pets!