Today, people with a life-threatening disease and those who are at the end of their life, have more choices in the kinds of care available to them. Whatever the course of the illness, patients and their families are always concerned about quality of life issues. This is the focus of hospice care.
The term "hospice" originates from medieval times when it referred to inns for travelers and later a refuge for the ill. Today, most hospice care takes place in a patient's home where he or she is surrounded by family and familiar things.
Hospice care differs from other forms of health care because not only does it address the needs of the patient, but also the needs of his or her family or other primary caregivers. Hospice professionals help patients and families address the significant medical, emotional, psychological and spiritual changes in their lives. Volunteers also offer families companionship and practical support such as staying with patients while their caregivers take time for themselves. Bereavement support for families is also an important component of hospice care.
When the patient follows the natural course of the disease process, his or her life is enhanced with compassion and dignity through hospice care. Their families also receive the supportive services they need to help take care of their loved one at home.
For more information about hospice care or for referral to a hospice program in your area, visit the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization's website at www.nhpco.org, or call NHPCO's toll-free Hospice Helpline at 800-658-8898. NHPCO's address is 1700 Diagonal Road, Suite 625, Alexandria, VA 22314 or call (703) 837-1500. The California Hospice and Palliative Care Association in Sacramento, California, is also an excellent source for information and referral. Visit the CHAPCA website at www.calhospice.org, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (916) 441-3770. CHAPCA's address is P.O. Box 160087, Sacramento, CA 95816.