What is Hospice Care?

Hospice is something that most people do not spend a large amount of time thinking about. As such it can be confusing when you find yourself in a situation where doctors are beginning to speak about hospice or palliative care. You may find yourself wondering what is hospice care and what are its purposes? How does it help? Does it help? Is it something that we should be doing now?

Hospice is designed to make sure that a patient is getting comfort and care after they are no longer seeking a cure for their illness. Most hospice programs and hospitals tend to define when a person is eligible for hospice care as when they have been given less than 6 months to live and have chosen to forego anymore treatments designed to cure their illness. This does not meant that hospice patients can no longer receive any treatment, but rather means that the goal of said treatments will now be to ease the symptoms rather than attempt to cure the underlying causes.

Palliative care is similar to hospice in that it too is more about managing the symptoms of the illness rather than treatments designed to cure the underlying cause. The primary difference between hospice and palliative care, though, is that those on palliative care may not have a terminal illness or less than 6 months to live. They may have a progressive disease such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s that tends to get worse overtime but is not at a stage where it is considered terminal.

Overall the goal of hospice is to create a more comfortable and pain-free environment for the hospice patient. Most hospice patients have made a choice to stop treatments and to go live out the rest of their time in their own homes. Sierra Hospice allows people to do that by offering help, support, equipment, and guidance throughout this phase of their lives. Our goal is to minimize their pain and to teach caregivers and families how best to cope with the situation. It is fair to note that there are some that come off of hospice and are able to continue going for much longer than 6 months, but it is very important to know that this is more often the exception than the rule. Hospice is also about preparing the patient and the family for the death of their loved ones and so making sure that everyone understands that it is part of end-of-life care and not meant to extend or prolong their life is very important.

There are many different types of hospices. Some offer around the clock telephone consultations with nurses and doctors, others have daily check-ins with social workers or other health care providers, some may even have caregivers on staff to assist through these times. Sierra Hospice is a Volunteer Hospice. We are able to provide care, comfort, and support as well as to provide equipment on a rental basis to people in our community that need it. We are a small organization that is designed to try to help families fill in some of the gaps in the way our county provides health care. As anyone who has lived in this area for any amount of time can likely tell you there are many gaps in the healthcare in these rural parts of California. Sierra Hospice is designed to help fill the need that people have for hospice care. No large hospice organizations exist in Plumas County, so since 1981 we have been funded through donations and through sales at our small thrift store to try to provide for a need that has been neglected by the county for over 40 years. At our core we are simply neighbors helping neighbors, friends being friendly, and community members who come together to make sure that no one ever has to go through the final phases of their life completely alone.