Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice - Sheboygan, WI

Who is Hospice For?

Who is Hospice For?
(The Sheboygan Press January 2014 MOXIE edition, by Angelia Neumann, Director of Development & Communitcations for the Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice)

What comes to mind when you hear the word “hospice”?  If you’re like most people I’ve talked to lately, you immediately think of cancer patients or very elderly patients in their final days.  Few people realize who hospice care is for, what it entails, and how to maximize the benefits of hospice. This specialized field of healthcare extends beyond medical care and the individual patient.  Hospice experts tend to the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of the patient and his or her family, improving their quality of life.  What does that look like and who benefits?

You may be surprised to know that cancer only accounts for 36% of hospice patient diagnoses. Dementia, heart and lung disease, and unspecified conditions are also primary diagnoses with life-limiting implications. In the United States, the majority of hospice patients are age 65 or over, but hospice is available to all ages.  Just recently, four of our patients admitted in one week were under the age of 51. Some hospices specialize in pediatrics.  Anyone facing an illness with a projected life expectancy of six months or less should consider hospice right away.

With hospice a patient will receive expert medical care and pain management.  In addition, the patient and their loved ones benefit from the education and emotional and spiritual support provided by the hospice team.  Family members often comment on much they value the education component of hospice.  The adult son of a former patient paid a visit to Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice last week and shared his story. “Having our nurse explain to us exactly what was happening and what to expect really helped me. She did everything in her power to keep my dad comfortable.  I only wish I would have called hospice sooner.”

While hospice care doesn’t seek to cure people, it does facilitate healing.  Healing that comes when pain is managed, fears are addressed openly, caregivers are given the support they need, and families can focus on being families. Often we find that a patient’s greatest concern is not for themselves but for their loved ones.  By enrolling in hospice as soon as the patient is eligible families have time to build relationships with the hospice team.  This makes them more comfortable relying on the hospice team as the illness progresses and their need for support increases.  Rosanna Fay recently wrote “Until experiencing it first hand, my family — like so many others — was unaware of what should be common knowledge: that by combining top-notch medical care with a compassionate human touch, hospice enables us to choose the circumstances of our life, whatever the duration may be, and live in comfort and with dignity.”

Hospice is a gift for both the patient and their loved ones. When an individual decides that quality of life today is what is most important to them, honor that.  Let hospice show you how.