by Janna Benson Kontz, MDiv
For many individuals who live with a terminal illness, it is a welcome relief to choose to forgo aggressive treatments, and instead, focus on quality of life. Everyone deserves to have the best quality of life possible and be treated with dignity, especially during the last months of life.
Although this sentiment rings true for our patients, there can still be some apprehension in the unknown future and starting a new journey. What will hospice care be like? How will they help me and my family? What can I expect when I start hospice care?
We often hear these questions. Hospice care has many practical aspects like medical support you can expect as well as many intangible things, such as compassion, dignity and respect. Here are some things you can expect in your first week of hospice care:
1. Compassion. This is what you can expect every single day from your hospice team. Compassion is not only for the patient, but also for the family. We may be trained to be compassionate, but more importantly, compassion is part of who we are. It’s part of our job, and it’s also part of our being.
2. Professionalism. Your hospice team will always be professional—not in a cold or detached way, but in a way that helps you feel you are in capable hands. We are experts in symptom control, personal cares, emotional and spiritual care, and we will always do our best to take care of what you need in a professional, timely and compassionate manner.
3. A team of people. In your first week on hospice services, each of your hospice team members will meet with you and your family, if possible. A hospice registered nurse (RN) will meet with you to assess your situation and help admit you into hospice care. This may be your regular team RN, an admission nurse or the after-hours RN. This is the first person you will meet. The following day after you are admitted, you will receive another visit from an RN who will most likely be the nurse who visits you weekly.
If you choose to have certified nursing assistant (CNA) visits, you may meet one or more of our CNAs during the first week. Additionally, a chaplain and social worker will meet with you and your family, and you will also receive a call from the volunteer coordinator.
All of this may seem overwhelming, and we try our very best to make the transition to hospice care seamless and easy. Based on your wants and needs, we will create a plan of care with your priorities and goals in mind and staff will come on a regular basis according to your wishes. Your care team will also work to ensure you have all the medications, equipment and supplies you need to manage your symptoms and keep you comfortable in your home.
4. Respect. This is your journey, and we will always respect that. We will respect your circumstances and your family. We will respect your doubts and fears, and your wishes in how you want this journey to go. We will respect you as a person.
5. Dignity. Your dignity is important to us. It goes hand-in-hand with respect, and we will advocate for your dignity, regardless of your ability to communicate. We will always call ahead for home visits and will always knock before entering, no matter where you live. You are welcoming us into your home, no matter where you reside, and we will always respect your privacy and dignity.
6. Care. We truly care. We care about much more than your disease; we care about who you are and your story—past, present and future. We care about making every day you have left in this life the very best it can be. We care about you and your family being at peace with your life and with your death.
This is what you can expect during the first week after admission into hospice care. It’s a lot to absorb and handle at times. But we will walk alongside you in this journey and be there for you.
As a hospice team, we are honored to be invited into this difficult and important time of life. We are honored you have chosen to share this time with us. We are honored and grateful, and you should always feel that when we visit.
Choosing hospice care may be one of the most important decisions you ever make—for yourself or someone you love.
Janna Benson Kontz, MDiv, started with Hospice of the Red River Valley as a chaplain and is now a bereavement specialist.
About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving more than 30 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.hrrv.org.