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November is National Hospice Care Awareness Month

November 17, 2011

The term “hospice” (from the same linguistic root as hospitality) can be traced back to medieval times when it referred to a place or shelter and rest for weary or ill travelers on a long journey. The name was first applied to specialized care for dying patients in 1967 by physician Dame Cicely Saunders, who founded the first modern hospice, St. Christopher’s Hospice in a residential suburb of London.

Considered to be the model for quality, compassionate care for people facing a life-limiting illness or injury, hospice and palliative care involved a team-oriented approach to expert medical care, pain management and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient’s needs, and wishes. Support is provided to the patient’s loved ones as well. At the center of hospice and palliative care is the belief that each of us has the right to die pain-free and with dignity, and that our families will receive the necessary support to allow us to do so.

Hospice focuses on caring, not curing and, in most cases, care is provided in the patient’s home. Hospice care also is provided in freestanding hospice centers, hospitals and nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Hospice care is covered under Medicare, Medicaid, most private insurance plans, HMO’s and other managed care organizations.

The Hospice team consist of the patient’s personal physician, hospice physician (or medical director), nurses, home health aids, social workers, clergy or other counselors and trained volunteers.

Among its’ major responsibilities, the interdisciplinary hospice team manages the patient’s pain and symptoms; assists the patient and the emotional and psychosocial and spiritual aspects of dying, provides needed drugs, medical supplies, and equipment; coaches families on how to care for the patient, makes short-term inpatient care available when pain or symptoms become to difficult to manage at home, or the caregiver needs respite time and provides bereavement care and counseling to surviving family and friends.

If you have a patient with any of the following diagnoses, they may be eligible for hospice services: ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), Adult Failure to Thrive, Cancer, Chronic Degenerative Neurologic Disease, Dementia (Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body, Senile), Heart Disease, HIV/AIDS, Huntington Disease, Liver Disease, Non-Specific Terminal Illness, Parkinson’s Disease, Pulmonary Disease, Renal Failure, Stroke or Coma.

Participants are eligible for hospice care if in the physician’s best clinical judgment they have a life expectancy of six months or less.

For more information or to volunteer contact Mays Hospice Care at 580-298-1154.

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