Hospice care is for those with a terminal illness and can be given at home or in a hospice. The philosophy behind hospice care is to make death comfortable and peaceful, if it has got to the stage in a person's illness where death is inevitable. It aims to improve the quality of life that a person has left.
A hospice facility is generally for people rapidly approaching death, but people may also stay for short term stays during their illness, such as for respite care to give a family member a break from caring. There are many purposes for which someone might stay in a hospice, such as they need specialist intervention for their symptoms, such as pain management or nasogastric tube feeding. They receive palliative care that is holistic, covering physical, mental and practical needs.
To benefit from expert support at end of life by a hospice team, a person will need to be referred by a healthcare professional.
There is a common misconception that accepting hospice care means someone will die imminently however it is very common that people referred to a hospice will have many months to live. The ethos of hospice care is so we are supported to live as well as possible for the days we have left.
If you feel that a hospice is the best place for you or your loved one, talk to a doctor, palliative nurse or hospice staff member about the situation. They can give an informed medical opinion and organise a place.
Staying in a hospice
Each hospice is different, but many hospices offer patients their own rooms. A common misconception is that hospices are sad places. However, many hospices are bright and happy places to be with family and friends whilst being supported by expert palliative care staff.
Hospices often support people to do a whole range of activities such as crafts, art and exercise. People can take part in all sorts of different activities, such as crafts, art, exercise. Many hospices do have equipped gyms and many have gardens where people can relax with their families and friends. Some hospices also run gardening clubs. There’s a whole range of activities that people are involved in that are very much aimed towards supporting people to live well with a life-limiting condition.
Outpatient hospice care
Palliative care is available in hospitals as well as care homes. Most hospitals will have specialist palliative care doctors and nurses who can help with issues such as symptom control and pain management. People living in a care home may receive care from specialist palliative care teams based in a hospital or in a hospice.
Hospice nurses are trained to deliver end of life care. They can give specialist care such as administering medication, changing dressings, cleaning wounds and looking after treatments such as tracheostomies.
All palliative care nurses are expertly trained to support people and their loved ones when someone is nearing end of life or dying. The range of care and support can include:
Assessment of symptoms and how someone responds to treatment.
Personal care to preserve dignity.
Sensitive and skilled conversations to determine the person’s wishes on end of life care.
Conversations about a person’s worries and fears surrounding death and dying to ensure the right support provided.
Nurses work as part of a team of specialist palliative care experts including doctors, nursing assistants, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers and bereavement support workers. This multidisciplinary team combine expertise to meet each individual patient’s unique needs.
Many hospices offer a range of complementary therapies including massage, aromatherapy and reiki to reduce stress, increase energy and improve relaxation and sleep.
They can also offer to help with the big questions playing on someone’s mind, or if a person is feeling fear and anxiety.
Hospices also offer social and wellbeing sessions including arts and crafts which allows people in similar circumstances to get together.
In addition, they offer rehabilitation to maintain or build strength, relearn skills or find new ways of doing things depending on goals and interests, so people can live their lives as fully as possible.
Support for your family
Many hospices offer bereavement support for patients and families, which can be provided before and after a bereavement. A range of professionals can provide bereavement support depending on the need including chaplaincy and spiritual leads, psychotherapists and counsellors. Support can also be provided by volunteers, through the coordination of support groups.
Supporting people after someone’s died is very variable in terms of people’s individual needs and also the kind of support that’s available. For example, in one hospice there is currently a garden scheme supporting men who’ve been bereaved, which is an ongoing initiative. A number of hospices have this kind of group and peer support available, which is ongoing depending on what that person needs. Many provide more of a drop in whereby you contact them if you would like support, but equally there are group projects happening for group support.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is hospice care?
Hospice care is for people who have a terminal illness. People usually receive hospice care when they are rapidly approaching death, when palliative nurses will help the person to be comfortable and dignified in their dying days. Hospice care can cover medication and pain relief, emotional support and help with practical matters like making a will.