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Hospice Care Offers Support to Patients and Caregivers

Beverly Yuen Thompson
Hospice care helps patients and their families deal with the grief of a terminal illness.

Hospice Care is a phrase that evokes an image of impending death.  Hospice care is a support service for individuals dealing with a terminal illness that need special care from professionally trained care providers. 

One of the myths associated with hospice care is that it is meant for cancer patients only.  Hospice expert David O'Neal points out that hospice care is provided to all patients dealing with a life-threatening illness and limited life expectancy. 

Cancer, heart failure, renal failure, stroke, chronic lung problems, and Alzheimer's Disease are some of the illnesses covered under hospice care.  In fact, David explains that "Alzheimer's Disease has a very high death rate" among the elderly.

O'Neal says "the myths surrounding hospice keep people from seeking out their services."  He adds that hospice not only supports the patient but is also there "to support the caregivers who have a tremendously hard job to do."

Typically, hospice services include (but are not limited to) nursing care, medical equipment, medical supplies, drugs to control pain and other symptoms, dietary counseling, home health care, and emotional and spiritual counseling to help the patient and his/her family deal with grief and loss.

If the services provided through hospice care stabilize a patient's medical condition then the patient may be taken off hospice.  Hospice is often provided at the patient's own home in their familiar environment. 

Hospice care is much more than a "palliative" care service.  It is a supportive service for the patients and their families dealing with the stress of life and death.

Full version of the interview with David O'Neal.

Anita Sharma Ph.D., LCSW, is a Gerontology and Social Work Educator, Researcher, and Practitioner. She holds an M.A. in Medical and Psychiatric Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, a prestigious social sciences university in India, a Master of Social Work (clinical practice) and a Doctorate in Social Work from Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Louisiana and serves as a pro bono consultant to various agencies.
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