Hospice Care- A Spiritual Journey

February 15, 2013

mental health for elderly

Credit: Viewminder @Flickr.com

by Daniel Gordon

Hospice care is designed to provide a full range of support services for terminally ill patients and their families. By focusing on the whole person rather than the illness, caregivers provide a warm and loving environment during this difficult time. These dedicated individuals provide support for all aspects of patient care, including the following:

• Physical aid that incorporates pain relief and treatment of symptoms
• Emotional support for patients, family members, friends and loved ones
• Spiritual guidance that can help the patient to come to terms with his or her situation and to bring comfort to the family

Because these services are centered on supporting the mental and emotional wellbeing of the individual, patients can sometimes enjoy greater clarity in their interactions with those around them. This can help terminally ill individuals to make real connections with friends and loved ones during the last stages of their illness. This type of care can provide added dignity and control for patients to allow them to depart with a measure of grace and serenity without fear of intrusive hospital environments and painful treatments that offer little hope of success. While medical treatments are still provided to patients, these treatments typically exclude the following:

• Extraordinary measures, including respirators and other life support systems
• Major surgical procedures not related to pain relief
• Chemotherapy and other painful medical procedures

Instead, patients receive pain relief medications and treatments designed to help them remain more comfortable and alert. Patients and family members can have significant input in determining the most desirable course of treatment and can be certain their concerns and wishes will be honored in the hospice environment.

Unlike traditional hospital treatment plans, this type of assistance can often be provided in a relaxed setting close to other family members. This added degree of familiarity and comfort can allow the patient to spend his or her remaining time with loved ones and friends and to avoid the pain and stress of invasive medical treatments. Care plans usually incorporate the following elements:

• Pain relief and management for terminally ill patients
• Symptom mitigation to help patients feel more comfortable
• Activities designed to promote the patient’s mental and emotional health
• Reduced stress and worry for patients and their families
• Spiritual and religious counseling and support

Jewish hospice care centers, for instance, may provide rabbinical services and incorporate Jewish beliefs and traditions into the care of the terminally ill individual. Family and friends can participate in these traditions to provide added support. For many patients, these services offer a chance to reflect on a life well lived and to share these last days with loved ones. These arrangements can provide a holistic, natural approach to managing end-of-life circumstances and providing spiritual comfort for families and friends.