Meet Your Hospice Care Team
Providing Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Support
The hospice care team is a special group of healthcare professionals who focus on patients with life-limiting illnesses and their families. The members of this interdisciplinary team include a physician, nurse, hospice aide, social worker, chaplain, volunteer and bereavement specialist. It is the job of these individuals to make sure the hospice patients under their care are comfortable, free from pain and maintaining the highest quality of life possible. Wherever the patient calls home—a private residence, assisted living community or nursing home—it is the team’s job to ensure their patient’s last months, weeks or days are lived in comfort and dignity.
Hospice patients receive regular scheduled visits from the hospice team five to six times per week. The primary role of the team is to provide physical, emotional and spiritual support to the patient, which includes monitoring pain, controlling symptoms, addressing nutritional needs, watching for emotional issues, and offering spiritual support to the patient and the family. Since the family is responsible for most of the day-to-day care of the patient, the team educates the family caregiver on how to provide the best personal care to the patient.
If patients or their caregivers need assistance after hours (in the middle of the night, on weekends and/or holidays), some hospices, such as VITAS Healthcare, provide 24-hour services: hospice clinicians ready to offer information, caregiver support over the phone or to dispatch a team member to the bedside, if needed.
The Hospice Physician
Every patient in hospice is under the care of the hospice physician on their care team. The hospice doctor works with the patient’s preferred doctor, who can choose the level to which they wish to participate. The hospice physician closely monitors the progression of the patient’s illness and prescribes appropriate medications and healthcare directions to the other members of the team.
The Hospice Nurse
Hospice nurses are skilled in assessing and managing a patient’s pain and symptoms. They are also trained caregivers who, like a visiting nurse, provide hands-on care to the patient. Skilled listeners, hospice nurses comfort the family while also teaching them how to take the best care of their loved one.
The Hospice Aide
Hospice aides are certified nursing assistants who provide personal care to the patient, such as bathing or mouth care. They are also available to family caregivers to help relieve their burden by participating in activities such as laundry and light housekeeping.
The Hospice Social Worker
Hospice social workers provide emotional and psychosocial support to the patient and family. They coordinate the logistics of the patient’s care, working with insurance companies or the Veterans Administration and helping with finances, funeral planning or whatever is needed. They are always available to lend a friendly and listening ear.
The Hospice Volunteer
Hospice volunteers are specially trained in hospice and end-of-life issues to provide compassionate company for patients and families or to help facilitate their care. Volunteers are an important part of hospice; their duties can range from visiting patients to crafting patient items to helping in the office.
The Hospice Chaplain
Regardless of a person’s beliefs or nationality, hospice chaplains are available to address the spiritual issues that often arise as a patient nears death. The hospice chaplain is there for the patient and the family and honors the cultural traditions and values they hold dear. When requested, the hospice chaplain works with the patient’s clergy.
The Bereavement Specialist
The bereavement specialist addresses both anticipatory grief and loss after death. Hospice supports families after a death for up to 13 months with consistent contact, support groups, grief education and one-on-one visits. Even after that period has ended, hospice is always available to those who’ve experienced the death of a loved one.