Moving Beyond the Word “Hospice”
Posted by Dana Human, Admissions Nurse
Hospice can be a very scary and ominous word to many people. As a hospice admissions nurse, I see the fear, indecision, vulnerability, confusion and despair firsthand.
Some patients I meet have a newly diagnosed terminal disease, and others suffer from a long-protracted disease that is now in the last stages. More often than not, the patient is ready to stop treatments and focus on pain and symptom management. They want to remain at home in safe, warm and familiar surroundings, rather than the grueling routine of a hospital or skilled nursing facility with endless doctor visit cycles.
Still, most families that I encounter feel that hospice is “giving up.” The hesitation and delay of signing onto hospice services is due many times to family members coaxing their loved ones to continue “fighting.” The idea of losing a loved one at any age is painful and overwhelming.
Patients will many times selflessly continue their suffering for the sake of their loved ones.
My position as a hospice admissions nurse allows me to help allay their fears and answer questions. Presenting the services loved ones will receive — as well as the support, teaching and guidance offered — often helps to ease their reluctance and fears. Compassion, sensitivity and active listening are paramount when presenting hospice services. A trust needs to be built in the short time I am present so that patients and families feel they are making the best decision under the circumstances.
People ask me all the time, “how can you do this job?” I respond by saying that because this is such a painful and overwhelming time for patients and families, the love, compassion, guidance and support that will be given in hospice is rewarding in and of itself. I help them realize they will have a caring partner, and are no longer alone in this journey.
The sense of relief and gratitude seen in their eyes is why I am a hospice nurse, and have been for almost 22 years.
Learn more about hospice care at journeycare.org/living-hospice-care.