Hospice care is used by those living with a terminal illness who have a life expectancy of six months or less. Making the decision to sign yourself or a loved one up for hospice care is devastating, but it could be the best way for an ill patient to be cared for as they prepare for the end of life. Here are some benefits of hospice care, and why it should be considered to help everyone.
Psychological & Spiritual Care
A diagnosis of a terminal illness is bound to generate difficult feelings for both the patient and their loved ones, and a trained professional can help all those affected to unpack their emotions and find a way of coming to terms with the situation. Psychological support will usually be provided by a psychologist, psychotherapist, or counselor, while spiritual care is often the domain of a chaplain.
Though the word ‘chaplain’ originally meant ‘minister of a chapel’, and therefore referred specifically to a type of Christian religious leader, today it is used to refer to professionals of any religion—and even to interfaith spiritual leaders—whose job it is to offer spiritual care to those who use healthcare facilities, schools, military bases, and prisons. Larger settings tend to employ several chaplains, usually one or more from each of the major religions found in their particular geographical area; for example, a large hospice service might have a Roman Catholic chaplain, a Protestant Christian chaplain, a Muslim chaplain, a Jewish chaplain, and a Hindu chaplain. However, this does not mean that each chaplain will only care for those of their own religion: spiritual care is a patient right recognized by the Joint Commission, and all patients are entitled to it.
Pet Therapy & Other Alternative Therapies
The hospice model is based on holistic care, which means offering different kinds of therapies to care for both physical and emotional needs. Common therapies used by hospices include aromatherapy and pet therapy.
The best-known use of animals in healthcare is probably as guide dogs for blind and visually impaired people, following a rigorous training program that was documented in the popular documentary movie and television series Pick of the Litter. Due to their extremely high capacity for providing loyalty and affection, however, dogs are also a common choice as Emotional Support Animals for people who are experiencing emotionally challenging situations. A hospice in San Diego County, for example, offers dog therapy to patients with dementia and can even provide lifelike mechanical dogs to those who are unable to safely interact with real dogs! These lifelike robotic have built-in sensors and speakers which allow them to recreate the sounds and movements of their live equivalents, including a lifelike heartbeat and the ability to respond to the sound of their owner’s voice.
Support For The Family After Bereavement
Hospice care is about caring for both the patient and their family as they prepare to say farewell. One of the most comforting aspects of the hospice care model is that most hospices recognize that grieving is a long process and will support the bereaved family for up to a year after the patient’s death. The end of a life may be an uncomfortable topic to think about, but it’s a relief to know that such a compassionate service is available.