My Health Blog Methodist Health Home
Hospice: It Takes a Village
last updated:
Thu, 7/15/2010 9:39 AM

‘It takes a village.’ Our former first lady made her pronouncement regarding the benefits of communal participation in the care of a child, but I often think it could be equally applied to the process of caring for a loved one who is terminally ill. Although many family members I meet are dedicated and committed to seeing their loved one through the process of a dignified death, the task is often a long one, fraught with questions, long nights at the hospital or home, and physical weariness from the mundane duties of caretaking—changing bed linens, bathing or turning the patient, and keeping the vigil to ensure that the patient is not in discomfort. 

Multiple studies have proven what we’ve known instinctively for years--no lone caregiver, however heroic, can succeed day-in and day-out with such challenges. Without adequate support, caregivers suffer increased risks of depression, physical illness, and spiritual distress. That’s when hospice can help in a variety of ways, supporting the caregiver and becoming part of the ‘village’ where good care happens as many give of their varied talents, rather than one or two individuals exhausting all they have and who they are, only to be frustrated. 

There are many Common Misconceptions about Hospice. When many people think of hospice, they picture the continuity nurse visiting the patient within the home, and envision the nurse carrying out doctors’ orders to ensure the patient’s comfort. That’s certainly a core component of the hospice effort, but there’s much more on offer. 

  • Social workers can help negotiate the myriad of papers to be filed for family leave, establishment of benefits, and assist with life review for the patient. 
  • Home health aides often become a functional part of the family, providing such physically intimate care as bathing or changing the patient.
  • Chaplains help the patient and/or family communicate about meaning, and negotiate the difficult but rewarding mental and spiritual work that impending death brings to a family. 
  • Volunteers may take the patient out for a drive, help with shopping, give a haircut, or read a story.

I hope that when it’s time for me to quit midnight rounds and busy schedules, and prepare for my own death, my family will take time to be with me, to ensure my comfort and to honor my life with their presence. But I pray they won’t try to go it alone. I’ll probably be a handful. Don’t go for the individual heroics, guys. Get the village—get hospice.

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Dr. Clay Jackson is the medical director for Methodist Hospice & Palliative Services team. For more information about Hospice & Palliative Care Services, call 901.516.1616 or 800.726.2559. All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice.

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Methodist Healthcare is an integrated health care delivery system, dedicated to the art of healing through our faith-based commitment to minister to the whole person. 1211 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38104 • (901) 516-7000

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