Viewpoint: End-of-life care matters. Palliative, hospice can help patients, families

“You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life. Hospice will do all we can, not only to help you and your family during this sensitive time to be as peaceful as possible but also to live comfortably until you or your loved one passes.”

This is a powerful quote that was spoken by Dame Cicely Saunders, nurse, physician and writer, and founder of the modern-day hospice movement. Everyone’s lives truly have meaning and purpose from the beginning of life to its end, and I am extremely passionate about seeing those who are in need of our love and care be provided their dignity to know they matter at all moments of their lives.

In these past months, I have been sharing my heart, perspective and experience regarding family caregiving. In the previous article, the topic was discussing hospice care, and I want to now dig a little deeper into some of the more important services that hospice provides. However, it is necessary to explain the difference between palliative and hospice care because the two are often so closely related.

According to the National Institute on Aging, palliative care is the specialized medical care for people living with serious illnesses, such as cancer or heart failure. The main difference between palliative and hospice care is that palliative care not only treats the symptoms of the illness but also seeks to provide treatment intended to cure the patient. Hospice, however, only focuses on the care, comfort and quality of life of a person with an incurable illness who is approaching the end of life. Palliative care can transition into hospice care when a patient’s ongoing treatment is no longer effective. Hospice then steps in to begin providing for the patient and family what is known as “end-of-life care.”

Hospice care is able to afford the patient months of meaningful care and quality time with loved ones. One part of their mission is to listen to patients and their families to be fully aware of their cultural, personal and religious preferences concerning end of life and seek to honor their wishes. Hospice staff interviews a family about their loved one’s spirituality and has chaplains available to read scripture or sing hymns to the patient or whatever their belief system may be. I firmly believe that the hospice care team does all they can to be positive with everyone involved in the whole process.

Furthermore, hospice is exceedingly helpful and beneficial to the family as they have accessible support groups for all stages of the experience. Bereavement and grief counseling led by experts are also available to administer support and care for grieving family members. Often, hospice will reach out to estranged family members and see families reunited during this difficult time. Losing a loved one is truly an emotional and spiritual experience, and it is beautiful how in these difficult moments, love can bring families together.

I firmly believe that knowledge is power; therefore, utilizing the services provided by hospice care are invaluable to all involved. My hope is that those reading this recognize the importance of hospice or palliative care’s role to provide excellent quality of life and end-of-life care for its patients and their families. As one who cared for my late father, Gordon C. Gunn, there was no greater honor than to ensure he had the best care and quality of life until the end.

Robin Gunn is owner of The Oklahoma Senior Journal. She can be reached at Her column addressing senior issues appears monthly in Viewpoints


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