Many people see it simply as a place you go to die. But there is so much more to them than that. Their focus is on providing palliative care and improving the quality of life for patients who have illnesses that can’t be cured. Hospice is also there to support families.
Here are some common misconceptions about what hospice does:
A hospice is more than just a building where patients go, it is a philosophy of care. Hospices offer inpatient facilities but they also have services that help people to be cared for in their homes. Hospice staff can work alongside family doctors and district nurses. Many also offer day-stay facilities, such as occupational therapy.
While the majority of patients using hospice have cancer, anyone with a life-limiting condition can access their services. These can include conditions like heart failure, motor neurone disease or multiple sclerosis.
Looking after a person’s medical needs is only part of the service offered. Hospice care involves a holistic approach covering physical, emotional, spiritual and social needs. A multidisciplinary team (which can include doctors, nurses, social workers, counsellors and occupational therapists) looks after not just the person who is dying but their family and friends. They can offer counselling, bereavement care and even equipment hire for at-home patients.
In some cases, people are referred to hospice soon after being diagnosed with a terminal illness. The team there can help them to get their palliative care sorted out and help with other issues, such as counselling. They may keep in touch to check how the patient’s health is going or, in other cases, they then may not have any involvement until the person’s illness has progressed and they need further care.
Many patients go in for short stays, perhaps to get their pain management under control or for respite care if family members need a break from caring for them at home.
It cost an estimated $100m to provide hospice services in New Zealand last year. However, it doesn’t cost patients or their families anything. The Ministry of Health covers many of hospice’s costs; the rest of the money needed to operate the service comes from public fundraising ventures. The total required from fundraising last year was around $38m.
For more information, see hospice.org.nz.
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