National Hospice & Palliative Care Month

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month and hospices across the country are raising awareness about the specialized care that is available for people coping with life-limiting illness. Hospice of the North Country is committed to educating families and the health care community about the benefits of hospice care. “There are misconceptions and my hope is to provide a true and complete picture of what we do and the positive impact we can have not just for patients but on their loved-ones also,” said Natalie Whitehurst, Executive Director, Hospice of the North County. “It is crucial that we reach people earlier in their end-of-life journey so that they may fully experience the benefits of hospice care.” Hospice helps patients focus on living despite a terminal diagnoses. 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. “It is important to note that these services are a phone call away,” said Cathlyn Lamitie, Hospice of the North Country Development and Communications Director. “A patient or a family member can contact us directly; a physician referral is not required for the initial inquiry.”

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. 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 an educated decision that includes 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:

  • managing the patient’s pain and symptoms
  • assists the patient with the emotional, psychosocial and spiritual aspects of dying
  • provides needed prescriptions, medical supplies, and equipment related to hospice diagnosis
  • educate and supports family on how to care for their loved-one
  • delivers special services like speech and physical therapy when needed
  • makes short-term inpatient care available when pain or symptoms become too difficult to treat at home, or the caregiver needs respite
  • provides bereavement care and counseling to surviving family and friends
  • assists families with accessing community resources

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.