What is Hospice? It's Not about Giving Up; It's about Hope
The meaning of hope changes for patients at end-of-life, explains Susan Acocella of VITAS.
What's Most Important?
When presented as an option to patients and families, many see hospice as the option that requires “giving up.”
In one sense, it’s true: When hospice services begin, medical professionals no longer seek to cure the patient. In the broader sense, it’s critical to consider what is important to the patient and family, says Susan Acocella, a general manager with VITAS.
“It’s not about giving up,” she says. “It’s about doing everything to fulfill somebody’s wishes.”
When dealing with serious illness, medical professionals often use the phrase “goals of care” in their talks with patients and families. They’re trying to determine what is most important to the patient: what his or her wishes are. Acocella gives this example:
“What if the patient’s goal is to see their son’s wedding? And they just want to be around long enough to really enjoy that. But if the very treatment that they’re getting for a cancer diagnosis might actually expedite their death, then we’re not really reaching their wishes.”
In that situation, the patient and family may want to speak with a hospice care provider.
“We help them understand and work through that, so they can do everything possible in terms of what’s most important for their goals,” says Acocella.
Hope for a Hospice Patient
Once a cure is no longer possible, the meaning of hope changes for a patient and his or her family, says Acocella.
“Hope to a hospice patient might be something as simple as, ‘I hope you’re not going to leave me alone,’ or, ‘I hope you’re not going to let me die in pain,’” she says.
With hospice, the goal is comfort care provided where the patient and family feel at home and in control.
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