Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice - Sheboygan, WI

There Are Parallels Between Prenatal and Hospice Care

The Sheboygan Press MOXIE
There are parallels between prenatal, hospice care
By Angelia Neumann

11:04 p.m. CDT October 7, 2015

Why do pregnant women seek out obstetric care in their first trimester of pregnancy when they know they won’t go into labor for months?

Because we know prenatal care can improve the health and well-being of the mother and the child.

Mothers value the education and reassurance that the medical team provides. Checkups are spaced farther apart in the early stages of pregnancy and increase as the expected date of delivery approaches. Mothers learn about their options for pain control, where they can deliver the baby, and alternative therapies and support services that are available.

They have time to discuss their feelings and wishes with family and the care team and to put together a birth plan, explaining what is important to them. When the onset of labor occurs, the team is ready for action. The trust that has been built over the last few months gives the expectant parents confidence in this last part of the journey and they anticipate the miracle of birth with little fear. No matter what, the family and team they have chosen to work with are in this together.

Why is our approach to death so different?

The hospice experience is designed to be a team approach, guided by the individual with a limited life expectancy and their family. Like prenatal care, hospice care involves education, conversations and building trust between the family and the hospice team.

That team is comprised of end-of-life medical experts, social workers, spiritual care and bereavement specialists, and trained volunteers. Their purpose is to inform the patient of all their options and to understand what is important to the patient and family. An individualized plan of care is created with input from the patient and family, and everyone works together to honor the expressed wishes.

Ideally, a person with a terminal illness will investigate hospice care well before they actually need it. When life expectancy becomes less than a year, they’ll choose a hospice provider to partner with their family for the end of life journey. Hospice will initiate important conversations on topics like pain and symptom management, where they would like to die, who they want present and what they want to accomplish before that time comes.

The hospice team will help families understand and weigh risks and benefits for activities the patient may want to try. They encourage living well and they add support services along the way to help the patient do just that. When a patient enrolls early enough there is time to build trust.

Like prenatal care, contact with the hospice care team increases as the patient’s needs increase. And when the time of death approaches, the patient and the family have little fear because they are well informed and supported.

Why don’t we approach birth and death the same? Because they’re not. But they are both fragile moments of life and we should want to provide education and support to families along both journeys. Both can be beautiful experiences. Both deserve our best.