Dying is a scary and difficult process, which often involves physical pain, emotional turmoil, and spiritual uncertainty. When an individual is aware that his/her life may be nearing end, he/she will often fear the uncertainty of death, the pain that is associated with the process, and the thought of dying alone. Many individuals nearing the end of life will seek the assistance of end-of-life care.
There are different types of end-of-life care that are appropriate for different situations. If a patient is seeking curative treatment to prolong life for a period of time, he/she may also seek palliative care. Palliative care and curative treatment may occur simultaneously. Palliative treatment will seek to induce comfort and relieve pain by quelling the intensity of symptoms.
However, if curative treatment has failed and a patient is reaching the end of life, he/she may seek the assistance of hospice care. Hospice care will help to prepare a patient for death and ensure that he/she receives physical, emotional, and spiritual support and comfort.
End-of-life care is a relatively new concentration in the field of medicine. The practice began in London and Ireland in during the 19th century, when monastic orders began to establish hospices to care for individuals who were dying. In 1967, the first modern hospice, St. Christopher’s Hospice, was founded in the United Kingdom. It was after the creation of this facility that the hospice movement began to gain momentum.
In the last decade, the hospice movement has become a widespread undertaking in the United States, increasing from volunteer-led end-of-life care to a substantial subset of health care. Hospital-based end-of-life care began in the 1980’s as small programs in a few hospitals across the country. Today, more than half of the large hospitals in the nation offer palliative treatment and hospice care to patients reaching the end of life. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010, seeks to increase funding for palliative care programs.
Palliative treatment and hospice care offer invaluable assistance to patients who are approaching the end of life. While these programs offer essential medical attention that decreases suffering, hospice care also seeks to address the emotional and spiritual needs of dying patients. Many hospice facilities provide patients with access to counseling services and work closely with clergymen to increase spiritual contentment.
These programs often offer patients the option of remaining in their own home when they are nearing the end of life, thereby enhancing a patient’s comfort. The service and care provided by end-of-life care programs is invaluable. It not only helps to address the concerns and decrease the fears of dying patients, it also helps to ease the stress and anxiety that is faced by patients’ families.
Caring for a dying family member is often physically exhausting and emotionally traumatic. End of life care programs will help to ease the burden faced by families, allowing them to handle their own grief alongside assumption of the caregiver role.