World Hospice Day

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World Hospice Day

Tomorrow is World Hospice day, but what do we mean by hospice? The number of Australians aged 65 years and older has steadily increased to about 3.6 million people, which is 15% of the population.

Have you considered what type of support or end-of-life care is available for your grandparents, parents or yourself? We all want the best for our loved ones but what exactly is good end-of-life care and what are the options?

This World Hospice Day take the time to get savvy about end of life care. Here are 10 quick facts to bring you and your loved ones up to speed on hospice and end-of-life care approaches in Australia.


1. Hospice is both an approach to end-of-life care and a place

Hospice is high-quality care that focusses on comfort and quality of life. It may be provided at home, in hospital, a nursing home, or a facility specifically designated for such service. A hospice is a facility that is designated to provide specialist palliative care. The ultimate goal of hospice care and facilities is to provide comfort, manage symptoms, and preserve dignity for people with a life-limiting illness.


2. Hospice does not only provide care for people with cancer

It’s a myth that hospice care equals cancer care. Hospices provide care for anyone with a life-limiting illness, including degenerative conditions like motor neurone disease, kidney disease and heart disease. Staff such as occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and social workers help patients adapt their homes and conditions in order to stay independent for as long as possible.


3. Hospice is for anyone with a life-limiting illness, regardless of age

People often think that hospices are the same as nursing homes for older people, but they care for people of all ages.


4. More care, not less

Families and patients are often worried that receiving support from hospice or palliative care means they are giving up. This is not true. It is about providing an extra layer of support and good symptom management so people can live as well as possible, right until the end of their lives.


5. Hospice intends neither to hasten nor postpone death

Research has shown people receiving hospice care can live longer than similar patients who do not opt for hospice.


6. Many hospices organise for therapy pets to visit patients and comfort families

The most famous therapy pet in Canberra was Honeycomb, the alpaca. Honeycomb, who died early this year, was just a few weeks old when he started visiting Clare Holland House, a local hospice, bringing a smile to residents.


7. Hospice helps patients achieve their final wishes and goals

Many hospice teams are keen to help patients achieve any last ‘ticks’ on their bucket list. They might arrange medical equipment so a patient can go on holiday or book a favourite restaurant for a patient and their family for dinner.


8. Some patients get to go home again

Everyone accessing hospice services or living at a hospice facility has an incurable illness, but not everyone who goes to a hospice is going to die there. Sometimes people are admitted for a few days to help get their symptoms under control and then they go back home.


9. Many different people and professions are at work in a typical hospice

“You work at a hospice? Oh, what’s it like being a nurse?” Actually, physicians, nurses, social workers, spiritual counsellors, clinical pharmacists, bereavement counsellors, occupational therapists and art therapists might all be part of the palliative care team, coordinating patient care.


10. There is such thing as a ‘good death’

Hospice and palliative care helps people with a life-limiting illness live as fully and comfortably as possible. What a good death looks like will be different for each person. For many it will include being afforded dignity, good pain and symptom control and the presence of close family and friends.

* The terms hospice, end-of-life care and specialist palliative care are commonly used interchangeably with palliative care.

The terms are similar, however the World Health Organization specifically defines palliative care, 'as an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.'