Pediatric Hospice Care
Pediatric hospice patients are generally defined as any patient from birth to 21 years of age. In truth, children and their families can receive hospice services beginning even before the child is born and continue, for some children, beyond the age of 21, depending on the symptoms. Pediatric hospice also differs from general hospice services because children can receive curative treatments concurrent with hospice services.
Pediatric hospice care is family-centric rather than patient-centric. The hospice team works with the family of the child and the child’s other physicians to achieve seamless physical, psychosocial and spiritual care. The parents take the lead in determining the plan of care in collaboration with their physician, and the needs of siblings and other relatives are also important.
The Role of Hospice
As an interdisciplinary team, hospice professionals help in myriad ways, from symptom management for the child, to talk therapy for a parent who is angry at life, to ensuring that the family has some “down time.” All resources focus on improving quality of life.
Hospice services are provided wherever the patient is. In pediatric hospice, care might be provided in the home or in the hospital—another way that pediatric hospice is different. Hospice care helps the family focus on the child without undermining care for the rest of the family. Available by phone any time of day, hospice team members are available to educate the family and provide hands-on care. When medically necessary, a team member can be dispatched to the patient immediately.
All needs related to a child’s terminal diagnosis—from medications to supplies to equipment—are delivered to the patient at no cost to the family. Pediatric hospice is paid for by Medicaid, private insurance and other forms of reimbursement.
Pediatric hospice does not end with the child’s death. The family’s needs go beyond that, and pediatric hospice continues to support their desire for peace, dignity and closure during the dying process and after death.
The VITAS Approach to Pediatric Hospice Care
VITAS Healthcare has the resources and experience to provide a range of integrative services to augment its well-respected hospice care. These include music and massage therapies, Paw Pals® pet visits and Memory Bears, volunteers and VITAS Community Connection. VITAS provides the resources that enable a family to provide the unique care their child deserves. Pediatric physicians work with the child’s physician, available for pain and symptom management consultation or for house calls, as needed.
- Nurses are skilled in assessing and managing pain and other symptoms, such as vomiting, agitation and fever. They are pediatric-trained caregivers who provide hands-on care in the home. The hospice aide helps the family with personal care for the child.
- Social workers, skilled in pediatric psychosocial issues, support the child, the family and other caregivers, including the hospital team and staff in the pediatrician’s office.
- Chaplains work with the family’s clergy, offering spiritual and emotional support for the child and the family.
- Specially trained volunteers offer an “extra pair of hands,” perhaps spending time to play with the child or siblings to give parents some free moments.
- Respiratory therapists, dietitians and other pediatric specialists support children’s unique needs.
- Bereavement programs help family members meet ongoing daily challenges before and after a child has died.