Taking the Fear Out of the Dying Process

Last winter, I toured Good Shepherd Hospice House in Sebring Florida, a hospice residence I heard is highly regarded by families and volunteers.  While there, I learned how hospice palliative care takes the fear out of the dying process, by giving patients and their family the knowledge and sense of control over this difficult life transition.

Jennifer Forde, a Registered Nurse and the Clinical Manager of the facility, who is originally from Owen Sound Ontario, taught me the ABCs of hospice palliative care, which are the same in Canada:

  • Hospice provides a team of experts who give terminally ill people a death with dignity and a comfortable passing.  The team also helps family caregivers by teaching them what to expect, how they can help, and by offering bereavement counseling.
  • The hospice team typically includes a hospice physician, a registered nurse, who is a case manager, a licensed practical nurse, hospice aides, a social worker, a chaplain, volunteers and the patient’s primary care physician.
  • Patients can receive hospice palliative care wherever they live, be it in their own home, a retirement residence, a nursing home, a hospital or in a hospice residence.
  • There are four levels of hospice palliative care:
  • Routine Home Care provides education and access to the hospice team.
  • Respite Care provides some caregiver relief.
  • Crisis Care provides help to get unmanaged symptoms under control, such as shortness of breath and pain.
  • General In-Patient Care: Patient is moved to a hospice residence only when their symptoms are considered out of control.  It works like an intensive care unit of a hospital.

The beautiful hospice residence I toured is surrounded by well-manicured gardens and gazebos.  Inside, there are well-furnished living rooms, a kitchenette and dining area, and a library with a computer.  Spacious private patient rooms have a bed, a chesterfield that converts to a bed for family, a bathroom, and a screened in porch.

Family caregivers can call their local hospice organization when their loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  Hospice organizations will usually follow up on a regular basis to determine when the person needs to start hospice care.

By Shirley Roberts, Author, Doris Inc.: A Business Approach to Caring for Your Elderly Parents

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