November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, a time when hospice organizations around the country work to raise awareness about caring for those dealing with serious and life-limiting illnesses. That makes this month a good time to learn more about hospice—and to begin considering your own wishes for end-of-life care—long before a medical crisis occurs.
What is Hospice and Palliative Care?
Hospice care combines high-quality medical care with emotional and spiritual support to help patients cope when facing the end of life. Hospice helps patients and their families focus on living despite a terminal diagnosis.
Palliative care is a specialized approach to treating patients with serious or life-threatening illnesses. Palliative care helps provide relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of serious illness.
Nearly 1.6 million Americans receive help from hospice and palliative care providers every year. When cures are out of reach, the programs offer pain management, psychological support, and spiritual guidance to patients and their loved ones.
Making Your Wishes Known
Although difficult conversations to initiate, it’s best to share your end-of-life wishes well in advance. Having those discussions now allows you to include your loved ones’ advice and input into your long-range plans. It also greatly reduces stress when the time for hospice approaches.
Holidays can be a good time for these discussions, because family members tend to be gathered together. Helpful advice on having conversations with loved ones about your end-of-life care is available at theconversationproject.org.
Suggesting Hospice to a Loved One
Recommending hospice and palliative care as a potential course of action to someone is often uncomfortable. Struggling with a serious illness has your loved one frightened, anxious, and exhausted. Hospice professionals have experience facilitating those discussions—so don’t hesitate to ask for help.
And remember, it’s beneficial to initiate such conversations as soon as possible. Patients and families often express regret for not beginning hospice and palliative care earlier in the illness.