Hospice Questions Answered - Meet Your Team
One of the benefits of hospice is the fact you will have a interdisciplinary team of professionals. These may include:
· Nurses or Nurse Practitioners/Case Manager
· Social Workers
· Spiritual Counselors/Chaplains
· Health Aides
· Bereavement Counseling
Other assistance may be Physical and Occupational Therapists and Speech-Language Pathologists.
You and your loved ones may not take advantage of all the people on the team, but know they are available to you.
At the top of your team might be a medical director and/or physician. This person is in charge of overseeing the care of patients and works closely with the entire team. He or she can modify the plan of care as needed. Also in charge of signing off on any new medications that may be needed.
Hospice Nurse/Case Managers are the ones who will be closely working with patients. Your nurse will visit regularly, no less than once a week. The nurse monitors how the patient is doing physically, may do labs or change dressings as needed. They will check in with the patient and family members to find out if there is a need for another member of the team to get involved. Nurses order medications and other equipment as needed. They report the results of their visit to the team at a weekly meeting.
Counselors and/or licensed clinical social workers may be available to help the patient and their families cope with the process of dying and connect with additional resources. Support groups for caregivers and/or patients may be available from the hospice center as well as individual counseling.
Spiritual Coordinator or Chaplain will provide spiritual support for those who need it. Recognizing the diversity of patients, they are equipped to speak about and pray in the religious format that the household believes.
CNA/Health Aides will assist with personal care, hygiene, activities of daily living. They may also assist with meal preparation.
Bereavement Counselor are available to families after the passing of their loved one. This could be provided in a group or individual setting. Typically this service will be available for at least 13 months after the passing. Many people my not be ready to do a group setting until they are 3-6 months out but may benefit from one-on-one counseling support.
Volunteers are available to visit patients, perhaps spend time with them while their loved one runs an errand or just needs time to regroup. Volunteers may help patient with writing notes, sing or read to them or even just talk to them.
These are very generalized descriptions for the team that your hospice center may provide.
Each patient has a very specific team. However, there are times when the patient or family member has difficulty communicating with someone on the team or is not comfortable. They may request a change in staffing at any point. It is critical that the patient find solace with the team members as this is part of the end-of-life journey. Just as in their life “before”, some relationships clash with one another.
Personal: I am a strong proponent of patients going on hospice sooner than later in order to avail themselves of all hospice has to offer. It is not always possible to do this, I realize. Some patients come to their end-of-life quickly due to rapid progression of disease or trauma.
More outreach needs to be done both by hospice, medical personnel and persons familiar with hospice to get the word out about what hospice is… and what it isn’t. Knowledge is power. If we are equipped with the proper information, we can make informed decisions when the time comes.