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Talk with the Doc: National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

Dr. Jim Surrell, Journal columnist

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. This year’s theme is, “It’s About How You Live.” Let us begin by defining the term “Hospice”. Hospice is not a physical location, but rather it is the giving of high quality care that enables patients and families to focus on living as fully as possible despite a life-limiting illness. During this Hospice Awareness month of November, hospice and palliative care programs across the country are reaching out to raise awareness about hospice and palliative care. Palliative care is the process of offering comforting care to people who are in need of this type of care due to a serious illness.

It is reported that every year in the United States, nearly 1.4 million people who are living with a life-limiting illness receive care from hospices throughout the country. Those who offer hospice and palliative care are highly trained professionals who are committed to ensure that patients and families find dignity, respect and love during life’s most difficult journey.

Let us now briefly look at the specific types of care offered by hospice and palliative care programs. These programs provide pain management to control pain and to relieve other symptoms as well. They also offer much needed and appreciated psychological and spiritual support and care to patients and their families when a cure is not possible. These programs combine the highest level of quality medical care with the emotional and spiritual support that families need most when facing a serious illness or the end of life.

Following is a further review from the USA National Institutes of Health (NIH) of the goals and objectives of hospice and palliative care programs. Treatments offered to patients on hospice care are based on the goal of maximizing quality of life. Hospice care can be offered in many settings in the community, including one’s home, in a nursing home, or in an inpatient hospice setting. The hospice team may consist of physicians, nurses, nurse’s aides, social workers, spiritual care workers, and volunteers who will work with one’s own personal physician.

The goal of hospice is to work aggressively to manage symptoms of any end of life disease while maintaining the person in the place they call “home” or where they would like to spend the remainder of their life. Hospice care also assists the caregivers and family by offering support and education, while they are helping to care for their loved one. Counseling and bereavement services are also available through hospice to help support caregivers and family members (including children) with the impending death of their loved one.

Hospice workers are truly dedicated professionals. Nurses from the hospice team will visit the patient on a planned visit schedule, or as often as their needs require. There is generally 24/7 availability via phone or by nursing visits that are available if needed beyond the normal nursing visit time to assist with urgent needs. Home equipment such as a hospital bed, table, bathroom equipment, and oxygen may also be offered to provide additional comfort. Hospice care is covered under the Medicare benefit and most private insurances. Our local hospice organizations can assist you to look into your hospice benefit if you have questions.

Throughout the month of November, many programs throughout the country will be providing information and hosting activities that help their communities understand just how important and beneficial hospice and palliative care programs can be.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of “The ABC’s For Success In All We Do” and the “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet” books.Contact Dr. Surrell by email at sosdietdoc@gmail.com.

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