You may have heard about the stages of life: infancy, childhood, adulthood. Another stage is end of life. For some of us, we remain active and independent throughout our lives. Others may face health care challenges during our lives that make it difficult or impossible to care for ourselves.
You may have a family member or friend who may soon need extra help with their day-to-day activities because of a chronic disease that affects them. That’s when hospice and palliative care may be the best care option.
A decision about hospice care will be made working closely with a physician who may use one of a number of criteria to decide the level of care that’s appropriate. Options include hospice care at home, at a hospice residence and/or palliative care.
Hospice is a level of care for a patient who has a terminal diagnosis and for whom other treatment options have been exhausted. The patient’s doctor can refer the patient to hospice care.
Hospice allows the patient to live each day at their best when the prognosis is for a life expectancy of six months or less.
If pain management is needed, caregivers will collaborate with the patient’s doctor and family to arrive at the best treatment options for the individual’s situation. The goal is to maintain comfort and a suitable quality of life.
Hospice care can be provided at home or at an inpatient hospice residence.
The primary care giver is usually a family member or friend. A professional hospice team, such as the Aurora at Home Hospice team, will provide guidance and medications needed for patient comfort and symptom management. The professional hospice team can help prepare the home to be a comfortable location for the patient. That may include providing supplies and equipment such as a hospital bed, wheelchair and oxygen.
If the patient has greater health care needs, continuous care may be available for a limited time.
For the health and welfare of the caregiver, respite care for the patient for up to five days at a hospice residence, such as Aurora Zilber Family Hospice, is an option
Home hospice care is the best option for some but not all patients. When there is no home caregiver or at home care is no longer practical, a residence home such as Aurora Zilber Family Hospice may be an option.
A residence hospice provides inpatient care in a home-like setting with a full medical and nursing staff available to complement the care provided by the patients’ primary care provider. Care may also be provided by a chaplain, social worker, pharmacist, dietitian, therapists and other professionals.
Another care approach for patients who are critically or chronically ill is palliative care. It differs from hospice care, which is end-of-life care. Palliative care is appropriate for any stage of a serious illness where life-extending treatment is still desired or is still an option.
Palliative care provides comfort and dignity to patients with an advanced disease or life-limiting illness, regardless of age. Palliative care focuses on relief of pain and other symptoms while addressing the psychological, social, cultural, emotional and spiritual needs of the ill person and their family. Palliative care concentrates on improving the patient’s ability to carry on with daily life activities.
Palliative care can benefit patients with conditions such as advanced heart, lung and kidney disease, AIDS, Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis.
Palliative care can be provided at home, in an assisted-living facility or in the hospital.
A palliative care team typically includes a physician with specialized palliative care skills, the family physician, social worker, spiritual care counselor and a pharmacist. Therapists, dietitians and home support workers may also complement the team.
Aurora Health Care has a team of more than 20 palliative care physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and social workers caring for patients at about 10 Aurora hospitals and clinics.
If the time comes to consider care options such as palliative care or hospice, have a conversation with your health care professional about the options and the benefits and advantages of each.
You can also have a conversation with your health care professional and your family about advance care planning to make your wishes known in advance if you become ill and unable to decide on your best health care course of action.
The good news is, the right compassionate professional care for every stage of life and medical circumstance is available for you and the people you care most about.