November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month and hospice and palliative programs across the country are reaching out to raise awareness about hospice and palliative care. Hospice is not a place but is high-quality care that enables patients and families to focus on living as fully as possible despite a life-limiting illness. Palliative care brings this holistic model of care to people earlier in the course of a serious illness. “We are committed to helping patients focus on the quality of their lives despite a terminal diagnosis,” said Natalie Whitehurst, Executive Director, Hospice of the North County. “Through this unique care model, we see many patients and their families experience more meaningful moments together.”
Hospice is more than traditional health care. Hospice of the North Country provides pain management, symptom control, psychosocial support, and spiritual care to patients and their families when a cure is not possible. Hospice care is a combination of the highest level of quality medical care with the emotional and spiritual support that families need most when facing the end of life. As Caroline Durant, a twenty-one year hospice volunteer at Hospice of the North Country noted, “I think it’s important to volunteer because I am able to give family members time to recharge so they can fully focus on and treasure the time they have with their dying loved one. Helping someone in need creates good feelings while repaying all the blessings we have had in our lives.”
Hospice care is about living life to the fullest—that is why now is the best time to learn more about hospice and ask questions about what to expect. “Every year, nearly 1.4 million people living with a life-limiting illness receive care from hospices in this country,” said Edo Banach, president and CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. “These highly-trained professionals ensure that patients and families find dignity, respect, and love during life’s most difficult journey.” Although end-of-life care may be difficult to discuss, it is best for family members to share their wishes long before it becomes a concern. This can greatly reduce stress when the time for hospice is needed. By having these discussions in advance, patients are not forced into uncomfortable situations. Instead, patients can make educated decisions that include the advice and input of family members and loved ones. We are here to help patients and families make the best decisions that will enhance the remaining time they will share together.
The Hospice of the North Country team can provide care in a patient’s home, in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities—wherever the patient calls home. Among its major responsibilities, hospice care includes the following:
For additional information about hospice and advance care planning, call Hospice of the North Country at 518.483.3200 (Malone office) or 518.561.8465 (Plattsburgh office). The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organizations Caring Connections offers information and resources for professionals and consumers at caringinfo.org.
The term “hospice” (from the same linguistic root as “hospitality”) can be traced back to medieval times when it referred to a place of shelter and rest for weary or ill travelers on a long journey. The name was first applied to specialized care for dying patients by physician Dame Cicely Saunders, who began her work with the terminally ill in 1948 and eventually went on to create the first modern hospice—St. Christopher’s Hospice—in a residential suburb of London.
Saunders introduced the idea of specialized care for the dying to the United States during a 1963 visit with Yale University. Her lecture, given to medical students, nurses, social workers, and chaplains about the concept of holistic hospice care, included photos of terminally ill cancer patients and their families, showing the dramatic differences before and after the symptom control care.