Since the opening of the first modern hospice, St. Christopher’s, in south London in 1967, hospice care has grown into a worldwide movement that has radically changed the way we approach death and dying.
The driving force behind hospice, or palliative, care is the desire to transform the experience of dying. Teams of nurses, doctors and carers try to offer freedom from pain, dignity, peace and calm at the end of life.
Hospices care for the whole person, aiming to meet all needs – physical, emotional, social and spiritual. They care for the person who is dying and for those who love them, at home, in daycare and in the hospice.
To do that they provide a wide range of services – pain control, symptom relief, skilled nursing care, counselling, complementary therapies, spiritual care, art, music, physiotherapy, beauty treatments and bereavement support. And all care is free of charge.
Research shows that 64 per cent of people would choose to die at home, but in reality, only 25 per cent achieve this. Every year, Marie Curie nurses make that wish possible for thousands of cancer patients across the UK.
Marie Curie nurses care for around 50 per cent of all cancer patients who die at home. They work through the night or during the day to provide care for patients in the comfortable and familiar surroundings of their own home.
The nurses also help families and other carers, providing practical and emotional support at what can be an exhausting and difficult time. www.mariecurie.org.uk
Patients in the US are referred when life expectancy is approximately six months benefit most from hospice care. While patients must have a doctor’s referral to enter hospice, the patient, family and friends can initiate the process by contacting a local hospice programme.
Before providing care, hospice staff meets with the patient’s personal physician(s) and a hospice physician to discuss patient history, current physical symptoms and life expectancy.
After an initial meeting with physicians, hospice staff meets with both the patient and their family. They discuss the hospice philosophy, available services and expectations.
Prior to service, staff and patients also discuss pain and comfort levels, support systems, financial and insurance resources, medications and equipment needs.
A ‘plan of care’ is developed for the patient. This plan is regularly reviewed and revised according to patient condition.
Bereavement services and counselling are typically available to loved ones for a year after the patient’s death.
Hospice care is a covered benefit under Medicare for patients with a prognosis of six months or less. A patient can remain in hospice care beyond six months if a physician recertifies that the patient is terminally ill.