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The Hospice Care Team

Key to a Dignified Experience

By

The Hospice Care Team
@Hola Images, Getty Images

The hospice care team is obviously an integral part of a person’s care that assure that the there is a true quality of life at the end of life. The team usually consists of:

  • Clergy or other counselors

    The Hospice Chaplain, if requested, makes visits to offer spiritual support and prayer on behalf of the patient. The Chaplain will also contact the patient's place of worship, if desired, and is available to perform sacraments and to conduct funerals or memorial services.

  • Home health aides

    The Home Health Aide assists the patient with personal care such as bathing and other personal hygiene needs when the patient is no longer able to do these things alone.

  • Hospice physician (or medical director)

    The Hospice Medical Director is a physician who gives direction to the patient's team and consults with the patient's attending physician regarding the patient's care as needed.

  • Nurses

    The Hospice Nurse works with the physician to ensure that the patient is kept as comfortable as possible. Pain control and symptom management are the nurse's primary concerns. The Hospice nurse makes scheduled visits and arranges for prescriptions and medical equipment as needed. The nurse also teaches the family how to manage the daily care of the patient. A Hospice nurse is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week for emergency situations.

  • Social workers

    The Social Services Specialist offers emotional support for the patient and family, encouraging open communication about the needs and concerns of the patient and family. The Social Services Specialist is an excellent link to community resources and offers expert guidance in the completion of advance care planning.

  • Trained volunteers

    Volunteers help patients and their families in many ways. They are available to sit with a patient while the family caregiver rests or attends to errands, provide transportation to take the patient to a medical appointment, pick up and deliver medication from a pharmacy, or regularly visit to provide comfort to the patient. Dog therapy volunteers may complete training to become certified in dog therapy so they can visit patients and families accompanied by their dogs.

  • Speech, physical, and occupational therapists, if needed

  • The person's personal physician may also be included.

Most often, a person can choose to have their personal doctor involved in the medical care. Both the physician and the hospice medical director may work together to coordinate the person's medical care, especially when symptoms are difficult to manage. Regardless, a physician's involvement is important to ensure quality hospice care. Throughout the time that the patient is under the care of hospice, the nurse keeps the primary physician informed of the patient’s condition.

The hospice medical director is also available to answer questions the person or loved ones may have regarding hospice medical care.

In many cases, family members or loved ones are the person's primary care givers. Hospice staff must recognize their own special needs for support. As a relationship with the hospice begins, hospice staff will want to know how best to support the person and family during this time.

Services Provided

The interdisciplinary hospice team:

  • Manages the person’s pain and symptoms.
  • Provides emotional support.
  • Provides needed medications, medical supplies, and equipment.
  • Coaches loved ones on how to care for the person.
  • Delivers special services like speech and physical therapy when needed.
  • Makes short-term inpatient care available when pain or symptoms become too difficult to manage at home, or the caregiver needs respite time.
  • Provides grief support to surviving loved ones and friends.

Support can include conversations with the person and family members, teaching caregiving skills, prayer, telephone calls to loved ones, including family members who live at a distance and companionship and help from volunteers.

Counseling or grief support for the person and loved ones are an important part of hospice care. After the person's death, bereavement support is offered to families for at least one year. These services can take a variety of forms, including telephone calls, visits, written materials about grieving, and support groups. Individual counseling may be offered by the hospice or the hospice may make a referral to a community resource.

Progressive hospice providers are also active in their communities, educating the public about hospice services.

This can include:

  • Providing materials and other resources regarding grief issues.
  • Conducting grief workshops, classes, in-services and seminars.
  • Provide grief support groups, facilitated by bereavement professionals.
  • Furnish speakers to present information on coping with loss to your church, community group, school group, or workplace.

The latter should not be taken lightly. Educating the public about this misunderstood service is key. And through that education, you can build relationships that in the future can turn into referrals for your service. So actively engage the staff in the community and reap the payment rewards.

Source: National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

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