Terminally ill patients deserve good care during their last months. Hospice is a critical aspect to that. Hospice needs to ensure that patients are cared for and meet standards that ensure the best qualify of care for the dying.
The article, “Terminally Ill Patients Deserve Hospice Care Reforms” by Ross Marchand states,
“Every year, hospices offer millions of sick and vulnerable Americans a refuge from medical tests and endless injections in their final days. In 1982, lawmakers realized that a growing network of hospices offered similarly effective but more pleasant care than hospitals for terminally ill patients, at a fraction of the cost.”
Hospice has been a big part of end of life care since 1970. It is an essential comfort giving service to the dying. It allows the terminally ill to receive the pain management and comfort they need in their final days. Many unfortunately never utilize this service and instead suffer more than they need to in the final days.
Hospice has always been about improving care and comfort for the dying. In the article, “Hospice: Improving Care at the End of Life”, the author, Mary Kane, answers some basic hospice questions and why it so critical to better care at end of life. She states,
“When hospice first started to take off, there was a lot of enthusiasm and a sense you were rescuing a person from the clutches of a medical care system gone mad. That has eroded. Hospice has become both a business, in the sense people are making a lot of money on it, and it’s become routine. Now just about half of Medicare recipients use hospice before they die.”
Hospice is growing and it is being seen more important everyday, but many still need to understand its importance in their own end of life care. To learn more about thanatology and the needs of the dying, please review our Pastoral Thanatology program
Many in pastoral care are faced with the dilemma of euthanasia. Although banned in many states, the right to die movement is a powerful one. This movement, however, is far from pastoral. It may paint images of taking someone out of their misery with compassion or ironically tying the words “mercy” and “killing” together, but if one looks beyond this, one will find nothing pastoral regarding euthanasia.
Euthansia is murder. It is that simple and those who seek to bring Christ to the dying and wish to represent a pastoral element can never condone it. Euthanais is suicide of despair. It is the rejection of Christ’s will and cross he has given someone. Furthermore it is the attempt to make oneself the author of life instead of God. As a sin of suicide, it shows the active act and the direct willing of death by the agent and requires the assistance of an outside agent to conspire in this taking of life. With this, it contradicts the laws of life and mocks the oath of all doctors to preserve life.
From a pastoral element,however, one is stricken with the images of such pain and suffering. Obviously a person in such condition does not deserve harsh criticism for seeking death but to the one thats duty is to preserve and protect is a different story. While some may be acting out of ignorance in such affairs, it is imperative that care givers realize that true pastoral care is not about ending life but comforting the final phase of it.
In such ways, hospice takes those who cannot survive via ordinary measures into its fold. These patients do not wish to end their life, but wish to spend the remainder of it as God wills. Of course, God does not forbid one to find comfort in sickness and sorrow. In this way, one who seeks death willingly or actively but merely accepts the natural reality of life does not contradicts the laws of God. From another extreme, as care givers, we cannot forget also that while some piously champion the value of life, they sometimes forget that unnatural prolongation of life or the use of extraordinary measures to preserve life are unneeded and sometimes more burdensome and painful to the dying and his/her family.
It is for these reasons that when one accepts the fact of death, one can with good conscience deny extraordinary measures and know they have not given in to the despair of euthanasia but instead have carried their cross to their own calvary with Christian dignity and heroism. Pastoral care givers need to focus on making the journey of the dying to their personal Calvary a spiritually and emotionally healthy experience where comfort, love, and support are given instead of despair.
If you are interested in Pastoral Thanatology Education, please review the program.
For many the choice of hospice is a painful one. Intrinsic to hospice is the idea that one has given up and medicine can no longer save one’s loved one. One feels defeat and dismay but the reality is one is freeing him or herself from the bondage of self and accepting the will of Christ. Pastoral Care Givers have an opportunity to help others accept the final leg of their journey. They can also help families learn acceptance and find some joy in the final days. Furthermore, once prolongation of life is no longer the goal, then comfort becomes primary. This is the essence of hospice. It accepts the end but allows the person to die with dignity, comfort and consolation. It is not defeat but victory over denial. In many ways it is heroic decision for a person to submit his or her will to Christ and prepare for the next world.
Hospice should actually be seen as a pasture for the dying. The word actually comes from the Latin word, meaning hospitality. With such a warm meaning, it points to a better ending for the dying. In fact, 88 percent of the dying wish to die in their own home. Hospice in most cases can make this happen, unless certain critical conditions prevent this. It was a great joy personally to allow my grandfather to pass away in the comfort of his home. Fortunately, my grandmother was a retired nurse, but this is not the case for many and hospice gives individuals a chance to die comfortly with dignity.
Hospice as a care giving service focuses on the whole human person instead of just the medicial condition of a person. It has professionals who specialize in physical comfort for those dying of particular diseases but also professionals in counseling and ministry that help one find solace in their final moments. Although hospice service is only for those diagnosed with six months to live, there are many people who are re-diagnosed and have received care longer.
Hospice offers four types of care. The first type of care is routine home care. Standard services and visits are conducted in this first type of care. Registered nurses, chaplains, social workers and other care givers can come to the home and check on the patient. The second type of care is Respite Care. Within this care, a patient can spend five days with the hospice unit giving the primary care giver the much needed time to relax and refocus. The third type of care is General Inpatient Care. This type of care is a continuing care for someone who requires special treatment and care before death. The final type of care is Continuous Care. This type of care service allows the patient who is near death to stay home but is cared for by a mobile unit.
These services are critical in fitting a certain person’s needs but also giving the person the spiritual and emotional comfort before death.
If you are interested in Pastoral Care and care for the dying, please review the program.