Memorial Regional Health Living Well Column: Hospice Provides End-of-Life Care | CraigDailyPress.com

Memorial Regional Health Living Well Column: Hospice Provides End-of-Life Care

Hospice Care Coming to Memorial Regional Health

If you or a loved one develops a life-limiting illness, it's comforting to know that hospice services are available to help you navigate your emotions and the logistics of those final days. Memorial Regional Health is planning to expand hospice care in our community by offering another option for home hospice care, and by adding inpatient hospice care.

Hospice care was introduced in the United States in 1963 by British physician Dame Cicely Saunders. It's a model for providing quality, compassionate care for people who are facing a terminal illness, and are at the very end of their lives. Hospice surrounds the family with support, offering medical care, pain management, spiritual guidance, and emotional care to help people die with dignity. Today, it's hard to find a community that doesn't offer some type of hospice care.

While there are a few sources for home hospice care in Craig, inpatient hospice care has been missing. MRH is excited to add this new service once licensing is in place, likely by Fall 2017.

Hospice care at MRH will be provided in both the home and the hospital. The hospice team will include nurses, CNAs, social workers, physicians, volunteers and pastoral care.

"By adding hospice to our services, we can provide a stronger continuation of care for those with a terminal illness," said Kristine Cooper, Director of Home Health, Hospice and Population Health for MRH.

The average length of stay in hospice is 19 days, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. The focus of hospice is caring, not curing. In other words, hospice provides palliative care, which strives to improve the quality of life for patients, helping relieve suffering through treatment of pain and symptom control, and offering the patient and family whatever support they need.

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"Once a patient transitions into hospice, it's really about providing comfort measures. We will manage pain, educate the patient and family on what will happen, make sure their legal needs are in order, and offer a kind ear for listening," Cooper said.

Each hospice patient receives a care plan to meet their individual needs, created together by the patient, family, and care team members. Working collaboratively to carry out the plan, members of the hospice team will make regular visits with the patient and family. Hospice staff will be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week—even for home hospice care.

New to Colorado is the new Aid in Dying law, known as Proposition 106 during last fall's election, which might become relevant in regards to hospice care. The new law allows terminally ill patients access to medication so they can die peacefully. Hospice staff will offer no opinion or judgment on making this choice. Rather, they will simply support the patient and family in whatever they decide. The law states that the patients must administer the pill themselves, and the underlying illness is listed as the cause of death.

If you'd like to learn more about hospice services coming to Memorial Regional Health, or are interested in volunteering, call 970-824-6882.