In hospice, care is provided by an interdisciplinary team, including physicians, nurses, social workers, grief support advisors, spiritual care counselors, aides and volunteers. The team assigned to the patient coordinates all aspects of the patient’s care along with the patient’s primary care giver.
The RN Case Manager
The hospice nurse will manage your loved one’s care while on hospice services. The nurse will assess the physical needs during the home or nursing facility visits at least 2 times per week. In consultation with your primary physician and other Humanity Hospice team members, the nurse might make necessary changes in medications or treatment. Hospice nurses specialize in caring for patients with a life-limiting illness and have specialized training in pain control and symptom management.
Your primary nurse will:
– Answer questions about the disease process and about what to expect as the illness progresses.
– Instruct you and the patient on how to take medication.
– Suggest physical comfort measures and other helpful skills.
– Help arrange for medications, equipment and other needed services.
– Work with the patient’s physician to plan for care.
– Collaborate with other team members to meet specific needs.
The Hospice Aide
Tender loving care is the specialty of the hospice home health aide (CHHA), whether in the home or in a nursing facility. The aide takes care of the patient’s personal care – bathing, hair washing, assistance in feeding, help getting to the chair or walking a short distance. They file and polish nails, and generally take care of the little things. Such niceties – the “buff and polish” – can make even the sickest patient feel better. Depending on the need, aides might fix a meal, do a load of laundry, provide light housekeeping, or simply sit and read or just chat.
The Social Worker
When a loved one is dying, families are stressed emotionally and physically. The hospice social worker is on the team to assess patients’ and families’ psychosocial and practical needs as well as their understanding of the disease and prognosis.
In some ways, the hospice social worker functions as a tradition social worker, helping families navigate legal and financial barriers. For example, social workers can assist families in obtaining powers of attorney, do-not-resuscitate orders and advance medical directives. They can guide families through community resources such as Medicare, Medicaid, Meals on Wheels and any assist with funeral arrangements.
But the hospice social worker’s portfolio goes beyond such traditional services. It is his or her job to evaluate the strength of the family and support system and how hospice might be able to fill the deficits.
Spiritual care is an important part of end-of-life care, whether the patient and family have a strong traditional religious background or not. When faced with the end of life, it is not uncommon for patients to wonder what comes next, to question what their lives have meant and to worry about unresolved issues, The spiritual care coordinator can help, either by following the patient and family’s own religious practices and prayers or simply by addressing their philosophical feeling and fears about death and dying.
The Hospice Volunteer
Volunteers serve as a member of the hospice team by sharing skills and interests in a manner that provides comfort and enriches the quality of life for those served. Volunteers serve on a regularly scheduled basis and provide the following:
Support services – companionship, friendly visiting, active listening, bedside sitting, letter writing.
Sharing hobbies and special interests — reading, gardening, listening to music, sports, travel, crafts, etc.
Assisting with errands – grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions and supplies, banking.
Transport patient/family – appointments, shopping, social outings.
Homemaking tasks – light housekeeping, dishes, laundry, meal preparation, child care.