What are the Benefits of Hospice Care?

Barry K. Baines, MD, Medical Director of Sholom Johnson Hospice

While there are many benefits of hospice care for patients and their families, in this brief article, I would like to focus on several that I believe are the most important and why they are so important.

The goal of hospice care is to relieve pain and other symptoms, relieve suffering, and improve quality of life. In fact, patients with life limiting illness generally have a better quality of life and tend to live longer when they receive this type of care at the end of their life as compared to patients who continue to receive aggressive medical treatments right up to their last days.

With the above goals in mind, here are some of the benefits of hospice care for your consideration.

#1. Hospice Care Staff Establish a Priority of Identifying Patient Goals and Preferences for Care.

Far and away, in my 25+ years of working as a hospice medical director I have come to appreciate that having the patient, family and hospice team focusing on the things that are most important to the patient, is the best way to ensure that the amount of time a person has left in their life is of the best quality it can be. When patients and families accurately know the seriousness of the illness, and understand when curing an illness or slowing down the progress of a disease are no longer options for treatment, the shift to a comfort-care focus can allow for many important and meaningful conversations and accomplishing critical life closure tasks.

#2 Relieving Symptoms.

Many patients experience troubling symptoms as they approach the end of their life. The nurses and doctors who work in hospice care have the experience and training that allow them to focus their efforts on relieving a patient’s troubling symptoms. The goal of symptom relief is to get the patient as comfortable as they want to be with as few side effects as possible. Some common symptoms that can be improved or even eliminated include pain, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and constipation. There are other symptoms that are a part of serious illnesses at the end of life, and your hospice team will be able to come up with a plan to address all of them.

#3 Relieving Suffering.

Anyone can experience suffering due to unrelieved symptoms. Suffering can also be caused by spiritual and psycho-social distress. The hospice team can help patients and their families navigate these difficult situations with the expertise of our hospice chaplain, social worker, music and massage therapists, and volunteers. Our home health aides and clinical assistants can also provide families with much needed help in assisting patients with bathing and other activities of daily living. Pre-bereavement services also provide comfort to family members realizing that they will be facing some challenging times ahead.

I hope this information shines the spotlight on some of the major benefits of hospice care. In a future article, I will address the topic of “How to Know When a Loved One is Ready for Hospice Care.”

If you’d like to learn more about our hospice care philosophy or facilities, please contact us today!

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