It’s Not About Dying
How Hospice Care Supports the End-of life Journey
By Maria Rivera
Hospice care focuses on the quality of one’s life as they embark on the end-of-life journey. It is not about dying. Instead, hospice affirms life, neither hastening nor postponing death.
The goal of hospice care is to provide patients with comfort and symptom management to help them find peace and meaning in the final months or weeks of their lives. At Hospice of the Fisher Home, we focus on quality of life, and this guides everything we do to support patients and their families.
Managing terminal illness can feel overwhelming. A hospice care team provides support to patients and their families through a delicate and challenging time using a comprehensive care model.
“Hospice helps people to live the best life they possibly can up until their very last day.”
The hospice team forms a safety net for the patient and the family. The medical director, nurses, and CNAs are experts in comfort care. They manage pain and symptoms so that patients can live as fully and comfortably as possible.
Spiritual and bereavement counselors meet with patients and their loved ones to guide them through the emotional and social challenges that often arise at the end of life. Social workers assist with social and emotional issues. Volunteers offer support in various ways, including massage, harp, and other live music, as well as therapy dogs, Reiki, acupuncture, meditation, reading books, and sitting vigil. Each member of the team has specialized hospice training and a deep dedication to helping patients and their families experience peace, comfort, and happiness.
Hospice helps people to live the best life they possibly can up until their very last day. For some people, that may mean feeling good enough to float in the pool at the local YMCA, spend a few hours fishing with a friend, or have their favorite dish for dinner and a big helping of dessert.
Educating people about the benefits of early hospice admission is important. Because hospice care focuses on the well-being of the whole patient — physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual — earlier admission to hospice means the patient can experience more quality time with loved ones. There is also a greater opportunity to contemplate what matters most in life when the patient is comfortable and experiences less stress and anxiety during their final months.
When caregivers and providers are aware of the benefits of hospice, they can facilitate early admission. It’s important to plan for these difficult decisions, put preferences in writing, and have conversations about the care you want for the end of life.
Maria Rivera, BSN, RN, is executive director of Hospice of the Fisher Home in Amherst, the only independent, nonprofit hospice in Western Mass., providing end-of-life care at a nine-bed residence in Amherst and visiting private residences, assisted-living facilities, and retirement communities throughout Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden counties. It also provides hospice care to veterans at the Veterans’ Home in Holyoke.