New Year's Day is often represented as a baby. Babies are welcomed with fanfare. Parents take classes. They read books. Decorate the nursery. All to be prepared months in advance.
Death, on the other hand, is quiet. We speak in euphemisms...if we speak about it at all. As much as we like to deny it, death is inevitable.
As a healthcare professional, the best, most compassionate support we can give to families who are losing a loved one is to provide them with honest information and options -- as early as possible. That way, they’re as prepared for the loss of a loved one as they are when they welcome new life.
For 2015, we have three resolutions for healthcare professionals that can do just that:
1. Encourage your patients to create an advance directive. The easiest time to start conversations about end of life wishes is when everyone is doing well. Everyone, regardless of age or health, should have an advance directive that makes their wishes clear. Encourage your patients, friends and family to complete one (or update their current one) to start the new year off on the right foot.
2. Begin the hospice conversation early. Hospice is not about giving up hope. Hospice is about providing essential support to dying patients and their families. Patients are eligible for hospice when they have been diagnosed with six months or less to live. This care is 100 percent covered by Medicare. In addition to aides and nurses who provide physical care to the patient, both the patient and their family will receive the emotional support of chaplains and social workers who can assist in funeral planning and gaining additional services like meal delivery for those who are eligible. The goal of hospice is to provide comfort, keeping symptoms managed and pain under control.
3. Respect patients’ wishes. Many patients express a wish to remain at home. Yet, when symptoms flare up, families are instructed to bring them to the hospital - even if little can be done to help them. Similarly, many patients are moved from home or their assisted living facility in the final days of their lives to an in-patient unit. These can be good options, but in most cases, symptoms can be managed at home with the support of hospice. If a dying person wants to remain at home, we need to ensure their family has all the options and support available to make that possible.
While no one wants to think about losing a loved one, it’s important to focus on making the final stage of their life comfortable. And once comfortable, families can share in special moments like Gift of a Day events and Veteran Recognition Ceremonies. A dignified, comfortable death is possible, and for 2015, we strive to make that the reality for families and their dying loved ones.
If you have questions about hospice and the care available to families, please call us at 888-564-3405. We are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for admissions, patient care, and to answer any questions.
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