Meet the Hospice Care Team
Hospice is an interdisciplinary medical team working together to provide a whole set of services that revolve around patient-centered care supporting the patient’s family and environment at home, assisted living or skilled-nursing facility. The Interdisciplinary team meets on a regular basis to formulate, adjust and evolve the plan of care to meet the needs of the patient and the family and ensure support at all levels. Together they devise the interventions of care to implement on their routine visits to the home.
The Hospice Physician specializes in the alleviating the symptoms brought on by a life-limiting disease. This doctor is an expert in bedside manner and can help you to understand the transition from fighting a battle for a cure, to making peace with the decision to live pain-free in the time left. He is prepared to prescribe the treatments, solutions and medications necessary to defuse the pain and other symptoms brought on as the body begins shut down.
Hospice Care Nurse
The Hospice Nurse is specially trained nurse and is usually the first contact a patient and family encounter with hospice. The nurse will explain the hospice philosophy, the mode of care and set up a customized plan of care for the patient and family that will create the most comfortable, symptom-free environment. The plan of care entails writing the prescriptions for all supplies, equipment and medications to provide comfortable, usually low-tech medical setting easy for the family to manage. The nurse serves as the case manager for the team and monitors all aspects of care from the patients’ vitals to the emotional/social support system for the patient. The nurse is the right hand to the doctor. He or she will alert the family to the signs of active dying. A nurse is on-call 24-hours, seven days a week. But the nurse is not in constant presence at the bedside, instead he or she educates the family of caregivers how and when to give the medications. The nurse also determines if a home health aide is needed to help the family with bathing, bed-positioning, bed-changing and catheter care. He or she makes routine visits to monitor the patient’s care and educate the family on how to best organize their plan of care.
The social worker assesses the social, emotional and financial dynamics of the patient’s environment that includes the family and community as a whole. A phone call is made initially by the social worker to set the time for an assessment visit. On the first in-home visit, families are often helped to make the social and emotional transition from fighting for their loved one’s life to finding acceptance, and peace in the decision for their loved one to live in peace, dignity and symptom-free in the time left. Many times the physical symptoms toward death occur suddenly, this can be very difficult for the family. More often than not, the patient has an inner knowledge that it’s time to go home from the hospital and make peace with the life he or she has lived. The patient is usually more worried about getting his or her family the support necessary to ease this journey.
Often a social worker helps the family organize how they will split the care-giving duties. She may help the family decide that an extra hand, for example a caregiver for a few hours a day is necessary, so that the wife can maintain her loving role as wife instead of become just the exhausted caregiver in the limited time she has left with her husband. The social worker can provide resources to find the right local caregiver. She can also help the family make plans on family work leave and figure out the right plan of care. This might entail calling the extended family and members from the faith-based community to help.
The social worker has a wealth of resources to help provide the patient and family with end-of-life care counseling and planning. This hospice professional can help unlock distress that often arises around end of life and can provide solutions that might iron out some of the problems with family dynamics, communications and relations. There are instruments that she has to help a patient and family create an end-of-life plan, will, prepare the funeral plans and write your ethical will .
Spiritual Care Counselor
The non-denominational Spiritual Care Counselor will help answer some of the questions that often arise when facing the end of life through the prism of your faith-tradition be it Christian, Jewish, Buddhism, Islam, or self-religion. The Spiritual Care Counselor provides counseling that can help you access the kinds of rituals and prayer, holy book readings that can often bring comfort, peace and order the chaos. The Spiritual Care Counselor may reach out to clergy in the community such as the Rabbi, Priest, Mullah or Imam if requested. This hospice professional helps to answer the metaphysical and existential questions that arise, such as what will happen when I die? Where will I go? One often doesn’t think about these questions until entering hospice, and often the answers they held through their walk in life, suddenly don’t work anymore for the end-of-life walk.
The Volunteer is a friendly visitor who may come to sit with the patient to talk, to read a book, to play music, to do the laundry, to cook a meal, or just to relieve the family members for a couple of hours. The hospice volunteer goes through training, is TB tested and background checked. The volunteer is a smiling face, comforting voice, a warm listener trained with knowledge in end-of-life care. Sometimes the volunteer can be a pet therapist who brings a loving pet to the bedside to comfort. A volunteer might help record a life review interview or help write an ethical will. The vigil volunteer is specially trained to sit vigil with the patient and family at the end of life, to ensure no one dies alone, and that the family has the support, knowledge of someone who is an experienced guide into what often feels like unknown territory.
Home Health Aide
The Home Health Aide can help with tasks such as bathing, grooming, dressing, toileting, bed-positioning, and linen-changing. This is a trained healthcare professional that can be scheduled in the initial plan of care by the RN to come into the home to assist the family in healthcare needs. This assistance is especially important if you are living at home with your family and would like to maintain your privacy and dignity when it comes to personal hygiene.