At the end of 2019, an end-of-life care report came out, saying that the number of patients passing away from natural causes at home was now higher than the number of people who pass away in hospitals. This was the first time in more than 50 years that hospitals didn’t have a higher number.
End of life care advocates certainly have a lot to celebrate about the increase in interest in hospice care. It provides residents of Dubuque and elsewhere the opportunity to spend their final days at home, often surrounded by loved ones. It’s a more peaceful experience for many compared to the busy, noisy, and much less tranquil setting of a modern hospital.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice also see the advantage of this type of care. If the option is available and works for a client’s condition, then home care followed by hospice care can give a client time to focus on their final affairs, spend time with loved ones, and try to be at peace with the present and the near future.
It can also be good for family and friends who don’t have to worry about health restrictions, crowd sizes, noise levels, or visiting hours if they were trying to visit someone in a hospital room. They can offer support as well, and more than one estranged family member has been able to patch things up if another family member is at the end of their life.
Of course, a hospice situation isn’t always going to be easy or pleasant. Although there are many positives about being able to spend final days at home, there are going to be moments of sadness, uncertainty, frustration, even fear.
It can be challenging for family members too, who will likely feel similar emotions since they’ll be losing someone special to them, and they’ll have to keep going.
Plus, as the initial report about the growing interest in hospice care stated, family members sometimes feel other pressures, especially if they try to take on caregiving duties. They may have good intentions but may underestimate the physical care and the emotional demand required. They may have to step away from their own careers or families which could lead to some resentment.
To make the hospice experience more appealing to clients and loved ones, each hospice program has different features that can be offered and in some cases customized to fit a certain client’s needs.
Even if someone is already receiving hospice care, you’ll find that the staff is always responsive and open to suggestions about how to make things as pleasant as possible for a client as well as helping to improve their overall quality of life.
These can even be called “resolutions” and thought of as ways to add on to the quality care that someone is already experiencing.
Some can include:
- Access to therapies beyond basic hospice care. Assistance from nurses is always appreciated, but other medical professionals can offer their skills. This can include a regular or occasional visit from a massage therapist who can help relax tired and sore muscles, as well as get a client to start to feel more relaxed and calm. Visits from a physical therapist or occupational therapist can help people re-learn skills that may have been lost over time, or learn new skills to accommodate new or changed levels of mobility. Occupational therapy can also aid in learning helpful skills to get around the home.
- Help beyond nursing. Some home health programs offer additional services that aren’t necessarily medically-focused but definitely appreciated. Some aides can help with grooming or with meal preparation. They can help with light housework and laundry. They can run errands or provide transportation. They can provide conversation and offer access to local resources for people with everything from practical questions like the funeral arrangements to more spiritual questions like what comes next. Because many hospice employees have worked with clients for years, they have likely heard a lot of similar questions.
- Respite care. Caregivers need a break sometimes, especially if it’s a family member or someone without formal medical or nursing backgrounds. They may enjoy going out and spending a few hours or even a day by themselves. They’ll enjoy this time but also feel better if the person they’re caring for continues to receive quality care when they’re out.
- Extra nursing help. A family member or close friend trying to be a caregiver is wonderful. But even in these situations, families should still consider scheduling visits by a home health care nurse. He or she can provide additional observation, advanced care, and maybe offer some suggestions to the caregivers for ways to offer better assistance. This type of partnership can benefit everyone, especially the client.
Figuring out the best type of end-of-life care is different for everyone. But focusing on quality of life first can go a long way.
If you’re interested in learning more about this subject, January is International Quality of Life Month, an opportunity to figure out your purpose and help others with theirs. This can be done at any age or point in life.