There are a number of things that may come to mind when you think of a hospice. As a space often associated with death, hospices are the kind of place that most people generally avoid entirely and therefore know very little about. However, there is a lot more to hospices and hospice care than may meet the eye.
History of Hospice Care
Hospices have been evolving in terms of the breadth of care they provide since the 11th century. Within the Roman Catholic tradition, hospices were established as places for the sick, wounded or dying. However, they were also places of rest for travellers and pilgrims. The word "hospice" itself comes form the Latin hospes, which refers to both "hosts" and "guests". Hospices as we see them today, however, (as places for end of life care) began to emerge in the 17th century.
This transition to a more fixed focus on palliative, or end of life, care came to full fruition in the 1960s with the work of Dame Cicely Saunders. Saunders was a British registered nurse whose own chronic health problems forced her to pursue a profession in medical social work rather than active care-giving. Saunders was determined to develop a care system that not only provided end of life medical care, but had an overall focus on the patient's wellbeing. Indeed, Saunders advocated providing care for what she referred to as "total pain": the pain a chronically or terminally ill patient feels that is not only physical, but psychological and spiritual as well. This kind of well-rounded care is what hospice care providers now seek to provide, contrary to what many may assume about the hospice care system.
Myths & Misconceptions of Hospice Care
1. A hospice is where you go when a doctor can no longer help you.
Hospice care is intended, first and foremost, for patients with life-limiting illness. It is not simply a place to go to die, but a place where trained professionals assist those who are chronically or terminally ill to live their lives as fully and painlessly as possible.
2. Receiving quality hospice care is unaffordable.
Depending on what country you live in, many individuals pay little or nothing to receive hospice care. This is the case is places such as Canada, as well as a number of European countries.
3. If I choose hospice care, I cannot live at home.
While it is common for patients to be relocated to a designated care facility, hospice care can also be provided wherever the patient may be. It is understood that in many cases it may be difficult or unsafe for a patient to be moved from their current location-- be it an assisted living facility, an in-patient unit, or at their own home.
4. Hospice care is just for the elderly.
Hospice care is for any and all patients with life-limiting illnesses. This means that patients receiving palliative care can be of any age.
5. After the patient's death, hospice care ends.
When a patient dies, simply because they are no long receiving hospice care does not mean those who were providing this care disappear from the lives of the loved ones who suffered a loss. Indeed, hospices offer bereavement services and grief support for the friends and family of those who have died for periods of often up to an entire year following the death of a patient.
Even when you know your loved one is being provided the best care possible, it can still be very difficult to handle the emotions one experiences in a time of struggle and grief. We have a number of grief support and resource pieces that may be of help when a loved one is receiving hospice care, or is chronically or terminally ill.