The Hospice Team
Hospice care is a person and family-centered approach that includes, at a minimum, a team of doctors, nurses, home health aides, social workers, chaplains, counselors, and trained volunteers. They work together focusing on the dying patient’s needs whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. The goal is to help keep the patient as pain-free as possible, with loved ones nearby. The hospice team develops a care plan that meets each person’s individual needs for pain management and symptom control.
The team usually consists of:
- Clergy or other counselors;
- Home health aides;
- Hospice physician (or medical director);
- Social workers;
- Trained volunteers;
- Speech, physical, and occupational therapists, if needed;
- The person’s personal physician may also be included.
It is important to find out what the role of the patient’s primary doctor will be once the patient begins receiving hospice care. Most often, a person can choose to have his/her personal doctor involved in the medical care. Both the physician and the hospice medical director may work together to coordinate the patient’s medical care, especially when symptoms are difficult to manage. Regardless, a physician’s involvement is important to ensure quality hospice care. The hospice medical director is also available to answer questions the patient or loved ones may have regarding hospice medical care.
In many cases, family members or loved ones are the patient’s primary care givers. As a relationship with the hospice begins, hospice staff will want to know how best to support the person and family during this time.
Among its major responsibilities, the interdisciplinary hospice team:
- Manages the patient’s pain and symptoms;
- Provides emotional support;
- Provides needed medications, medical supplies, and equipment;
- Coaches loved ones on how to care for the patient;
- Delivers special services like speech and physical therapy when needed;
- Makes short-term inpatient care available when pain or symptoms become too difficult to manage at home, or the caregiver needs respite time; and
- Provides grief support to surviving loved ones and friends. Support can include conversations with the person and family members, teaching caregiving skills, prayer, telephone calls to loved ones, including family members who live at a distance and companionship and help from volunteers.
Counseling or grief support for the patient and loved ones are an important part of hospice care. After the person’s death, bereavement support is offered to families for at least one year. These services can take a variety of forms, including telephone calls, visits, written materials about grieving, and support groups. Individual counseling may be offered by the hospice or the hospice may make a referral to a community resource.