Did you know hospice care was practiced as far back as the middle ages, the 11th century? The word hospice evolved from Latin (hospitium from hospes, hospit, to the English language translated to host). The Oxford Dictionary tells us hospit care originally served as “a house of shelter or rest for pilgrims, strangers, etc., especially one kept by a religious order.” The purpose of hospit in medieval life was to take care of travelers passing through villages as well as to care for the sick and dying. Fast forward eight hundred years.
Thanks to passionate advocates who understood the importance of caring for those with a life limiting illness, dignity and the dying process, by 1986 hospice care was officially included in health care reform. In this modern age, hospice care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, chaplains and aides. Hospice nurtures spiritual and emotional well-being while managing pain and symptoms helping patients live life to the fullest with the time they have left. That’s why it’s so important to elect hospice early. It’s the very reason why so many advocacy groups focus on education and awareness.
VNA nurse practitioner, Abaco Richardson, explains how time makes a difference for our hospice patients, “By having honest and realistic conversations early, our patients realize they have options. When a patient’s focus shifts to goals of care there’s freedom, patients start thinking about what they really want, how they want to live each day. For VNA, it means we help get pain under control and help manage symptoms. For patients, it’s about looking forward, planning, spending time with children, grandchildren and close friends, but there’s more. For example, those who can, may want to take a special trip or attend an event. Some patients worry about making sure everything is in order. When hospice is elected early, there’s time for social workers to help with advance directives. There are counselors to help patients and families work through any unresolved issues hoping to encourage a sense of peace and acceptance. Life can be so meaningful. It’s sad that most individuals don’t consider or receive hospice care until the final weeks or even days of life.”
It can’t be said enough. Hospice is for living!