Death is an inevitable part of life. We must all die. But how we die matters.
Some believe in an afterlife, some believe in reincarnation and many believe that when we die that is the end. Whatever your belief, dying does not mean suffering. Hospice is not a place, it is an idea that dying from something other than an accident or sudden death should be peaceful no matter where you live or what the cause.
The word hospice comes from the Latin root hospitium, which referred to a place where guests were received with hospitality and lodging. These concepts are associated with several modern words, including hospice, hostel, hotel, and hospital.
In 1905, the Irish Sisters of Charity founded St. Joseph’s Hospice in the East End of London, where the modern hospice movement began with the work of Dr. Cicely Saunders who is credited with developing the art and science of modern hospice care according to the following principles:
- Patients, family members, and healthcare professionals are more than collections of cells, bones, and blood; each is unique and has important physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs.
- Each person’s beliefs, values, and concerns should be respected regardless of nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or financial status.
- People who are suffering usually need help from caring, skilled professionals to articulate their needs, values, concerns, and fears. Much like a woman who during child birth needs help.
- People who are suffering benefit from skilled inter-disciplinary interventions that alleviate physical, emotional, spiritual, and social pain.
Hospice programs focus on improving quality of life and helping patients and families throughout the course of their illness to live life to the fullest until death occurs. For those at the end of life, the ultimate goal of hospice is to alleviate pain and suffering as patients make the transition from life to death.
Hospice is a Medicare covered benefit and is also covered by many other insurance companies. The only criterion is that 2 physicians (one must be the hospice physician) certify that the patient has less than a 6-month prognosis if the disease continues on its expected course without aggressive treatments. When it comes time to choose a hospice one can usually be recommended by your physician and you can compare quality indicators of hospices on the Medicare.gov website.