Birth and death are two unavoidable facts of life, and just as practices and societal norms surrounding birth have changed over the years, so have those surrounding death. For instance, in the 1960s and ‘70s, expectant mothers began exercising new ideas. Instead of the traditional situation where a father would await the birth of his child from a separate room, many families started opting to experience the labor and birthing process together in the same room.
In subsequent years, additional choices about the location of birth came into play, such as selecting a birthing center, a hospital environment or a home birth. Next up, it became common to create a medical treatment plan that aimed to keep mom comfortable and allow her the birth journey she desired. In modern times, birth is often a family affair with medical professionals knowing exactly what a particular family wants and expects from the process.
Many of the lessons learned in the childbirth arena also migrated to change traditional approaches to end-of-life care in the late 1970s and ‘80s. With this transition, two of life’s major events—birth and death—became centered around family.
What is Hospice?
Hospice is a special type of care given to people and their loved ones who are experiencing advanced, life-limiting illness or age. It’s a compassionate philosophy that aims to affirm life but not postpone death, and seeks to manage an individual’s experience of death with comfort, dignity and love.
How Hospice Helps Families
At some point in time, all families must face hard decisions. Often, death can be a difficult topic that makes people feel alone, confused, scared, not in control, worried and more.
Family can be a source of strength, but also struggle and sadness. Hospice care programs can help family members feel like they aren’t going it alone. Much like birth practitioners stepping in to foster the birth experience as a family affair, hospice care workers can do the same: tap into your specific family resources and situation and provide much-needed aid and care as a loved one embarks on life’s final voyage.
Hospice care programs are designed to aid family members in understanding, preparing for and supporting one another through the situation at hand. They can offer guidance when making impossible decisions and teach family members how they can give their own best care. Once death comes, hospice care continues its path as it helps family members navigate their grief.
At Wings of Hope, we understand that each scenario is unique. That being said, strong and loving families that display qualities of commitment, communication, appreciation, general well-being, abilities to cope with stress and/or crises and present as a united group tend to work best with hospice care teams. All of these listed qualities are deeply ingrained in the hospice concept.
In general, hospice exists as a way to help family members and loved ones maintain their commitments to each other leading up to and beyond death. These commitments aren’t tethered to a location, and can happen in-home, at a hospital or nursing facility. With the best of care in mind, hospice professionals work alongside knowledgeable nurses and hands-on clinicians, as well as physicians and other healthcare providers.
Not a Takeover
It is important to note that hospice care relies on your family to do its own part. Their role is simply to teach, guide and support—not takeover. One helpful way to get on the same page is to host family meetings, lead or run by hospice care or social workers to air feelings and complicated emotions that arise when coping with impending death and being in the position of having to make incredibly hard choices.
Hospice workers look to the unique skills and abilities each family caregiver provides, and do not aim to do it all. After all, we’re here to support your goodbye process with the utmost love and compassion.
Often, religious traditions or personal faiths can provide context to life and death. Hospice care honors all spiritual dimensions, and a care team includes a chaplain or other individual who is available to meet and serve your family’s spiritual needs or to help facilitate a connection with a greater spiritual community.
When medical crises do arise, hospice care nurses can be reached 24 hours a day for quick responses and even to provide practical assistance or other help. The last few months prior to death can be particularly difficult, with extended grief episodes that require support.
Hospice care is a service that is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most other private insurance plans. If your family lacks insurance and resources are limited, we suggest looking into hospice care programs that are available on a sliding scale.
One of the biggest benefits of hospice care is that it allows your loved one to receive care in a home environment they love and feel comfortable in. Near the end of life, few individuals desire to die in a hospital. We know that it’s not always avoidable, but hospice can be a bridge that extends life in an emotionally and physically familiar space. We’ve found that this also helps retain a sense of dignity and peace when allowed to live one’s final time in a space that is full of memories.
Another benefit of hospice for family members is that it enables a highly specialized team of nurses to provide skilled care customized to your loved one’s needs. An expert care team can coordinate medical management, physical health needs, as well as nursing needs while also performing careful observation around the clock to keep your loved one as comfortable as possible.
Reduce Stress and Work
One of the biggest challenges is providing constant care. This tends to increase in intensity toward the end of life and with hospice, a family care team can help share the workload so as to prevent burnout and overload.
Not only does a hospice team provide your loved one with care, they provide each member of the family with care. It’s easy to get so focused on the individual who is dying that we forget that the living need love and attention too.
From critical conversations to emotional support, navigating living wills to advance directives, a hospice team can aid in ensuring that your loved one’s wishes are executed.
For more information, contact our team at Wings of Hope by giving us a call at 602-971-0304. We’re here for you and here to help.