Dear Mountain Home Health,
I have recently had a discussion with some family members, as a relative of ours is getting older and declining in health, about hospice. Upon having this discussion one of my relatives made the statement that hospice is giving up. I know several people who have been through hospice and my relatives statement struck me as wrong. I did not have the words to respond and hoped you might, is hospice giving up?
Thanks so much for your inquiry! This is something that comes up quite often for those of us who work in end of life care. Let me be clear, hospice is not a decision to quit living. Let me unpack what I mean when I say that.
When someone qualifies for hospice, they are within six months, given that the terminal illness takes is assumed course, of end of life. Whether the person chooses to elect the hospice benefit or not they are in fact terminal. The hospice philosophy is not a philosophy of hastening death or of encouraging the process of death to come more quickly than it would given a terminal illness’ natural course. Rather, hospice seeks to improve the quality of life that a person may have left despite the quantity of life that a person may have.
Now this idea of hospice at a decision to ‘give up’ or to ‘quit living’ is in fact almost a moot point when speaking about hospice because the hospice philosophy does not attempt to prolong or shorten life. Rather, hospice attempts to enrich life for the remaining time that a person may have. In fact, the idea that hospice is a decision to quit living is, in reality, antitheoretical to the hospice philosophy. Hospice attempts to improve the quality of life, thereby enriching its meaning in the remaining time that a person may have.
Many who have elected the hospice benefit and who have had engaged in the hospice process surrounding their dying have reported an experience of feeling most alive during that time. Hospice seeks to distill what is most important and most essential to someone on hospice and to help them reach goals that they have prior to their transition.
I hope this helps answer your questions and gives you a guidepost when speaking with your family about hospice.
Holding you all close,
Mountain Home Health
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