The benefits of hospices are many, not only to the terminally ill but also to those around them. The basic function of a hospice is to provide care for people facing the end of their life and to make this time as comfortable and supportive as possible. The patient should expect top quality medical attention from qualified staff and also have access to a range of other resources including holistic and spiritual therapists, social workers and help with symptom management. In many cases, the family of the patient can also receive support in the form of grief counseling, either one-on-one or in a group setting depending on their preference.
The decision to opt for hospice care is both personal and difficult, especially for the main caregiver of the patient who may feel some guilt about handing over the responsibilities. A good hospice should be aware of and sensitive to these feelings and ensure that the family of the loved one is involved in the whole process. Choosing which hospice to enter can depend on a number of factors such as the age of the patient (particularly if it is a child), costs and location, and it is always encouraged that the family does their own research into the various facilities. However, the family doctor should be able to assist with recommending an appropriate hospice and collaborating with the staff on a proposed plan of care, while a social worker can help provide the family with information on funding and insurance issues.
Despite the fact that a hospice is a place for the terminally ill, it is a mistake to think of them as gloomy, depressing places. On the contrary, most hospices are calm, soothing and positive environments run by caring staff and volunteers whose job it is to make the patient as comfortable as possible at the end of their life.