What is Hospice Care and What Does it Offer Patients and Families?

By Kim Petrone, MD

When patients are terminally ill and treatment to cure their illness is no longer an option, families may decide that hospice care is the right choice. Hospice care focuses on controlling pain, providing comfort and managing symptoms. It helps patients maintain their dignity while completing their life in comfort and peace.

Senior living communities with a continuum of care, such as St. Ann’s Community, offer hospice care in partnership with licensed hospice and palliative care agencies. Care is provided at the patient’s home, which may be in independent living, assisted living or skilled nursing.

You may also want to consider independent comfort care homes, staffed mainly by volunteers and home-based hospice agencies.

Patients with a prognosis of six months or less may receive compassionate end-of-life care at The Leo Center for Caring on St. Ann’s Irondequoit campus. The Leo Center provides skilled nursing with a comfort care approach for those who are terminally ill. (For more information about the Leo Center, call 585-697-6311 or visit www.stannscommunity.com.)

Quality of life matters

The hospice or comfort care option you choose should ensure that your loved one’s quality of life, comfort, and dignity are paramount. A good start is making sure the option you’re considering offers patients a private room with an in-room private bath.

The quality and availability of care is also a crucial factor. Having medical professionals on site and on call is important, ensuring the patient receives optimal care throughout their stay. Ask what the medical team consists of (e.g., doctor, nurse practitioner, medical social worker, dietitian) and whether they are accessible 24/7.

Does the facility provide pastoral care and counseling services? Specially trained staff in these areas can recognize the changing needs of patients and can support the emotional and spiritual needs of both patient and family.

Helping families feel at home

Does the hospice option you’re considering allow around-the-clock visitation for families? This removes barriers to visiting and makes it easier for families to balance everyday obligations with their desire to spend time with their loved one.

Quality accommodations are also essential. Comfortable sitting areas and kitchens that are always open encourage families to come together, and quiet spaces allow for reflection and prayer. Many places, including the Leo Center, also offer food service and private accommodations so family members can stay overnight and enjoy the comforts and conveniences of home.

The gift of time

Be sure to take a tour of the hospice care options you’re considering. Get a feel for the atmosphere, the accommodations, the services and the staff. Then choose the one that’s the right fit for your loved one and family.

While no one knows precisely when a loved one will pass, securing compassionate end-of-life care gives families a wonderful gift: quality time together to say goodbye.

Kim Petrone is medical director of St. Ann’s Community and the Rochester General Wound Healing Center at St. Ann’s. She is board-certified in internal medicine and geriatrics. Contact her at kpetrone@mystanns.com or 585-922-HEAL (4325), or visit www.stannscommunity.com.