HEALTH MATTERS: Hospice looks beyond medical needs

September 13, 2016 GMT

Instead of seeking a cure for a terminal illness, hospice care enhances the quality of life, enabling people to live as fully and comfortably as possible. Palliative care focuses on relief from pain and other symptoms of illness to ease the dying process for patients. It also tends to the grief felt by families and friends.

Hospice concentrates on all aspects of a patient’s life and well-being: physical, social, emotional and spiritual. Working as a team, physicians, nurses, therapists, social workers, chaplains, other health care providers and trained volunteers help minimize anxiety and discomfort for patients and families. By carefully managing symptoms to alleviate suffering, people are able to spend quality time with family and friends.

Hospice does not hasten death or “help someone die.” Although death is a natural part of life, most people are frightened by the thought of dying. Often they imagine the pain and loneliness, or they envision spending their final days in a hospital away from family, friends and all that they know and love. Hospice care represents a compassionate approach to end-of-life care, enabling people to live as fully and as comfortably as possible.

RiverStone Health Hospice Services has served our community since 1980 and was the first provider of hospice services in the area to be accredited by the Community Health Accreditation Partner (CHAP), which assures that we meet the highest quality standards for care.

Most often, people receive hospice care in their own home, the home of a loved one, or in some form of retirement or assisted living facility. A small number of patients receive care at RiverStone Health Hospice Home, where the level of around-the-clock nursing care is comparable to a hospital. The community’s commitment to providing a full range of hospice care enabled the Hospice Home, on Billings’ West End, to be built. From the start, it was designed to help when families cannot provide the needed level of care in a home setting.

In the warm, home-like environment of the Hospice Home, families can spend as much time as they want with their loved one. Families can cherish the moments that are left without the stress of caretaking and have the reassurance of knowing that their loved one is cared for at all times.

As we mark five years since the RiverStone Health Hospice Home was built in 2011, the staff have reflected on the lives we have touched. In five years, more than 760 patients have stayed with and been cared for by us.

The Hospice Home has 12 personal bedrooms, each with a full private bathroom. Patients can have around the clock care, symptom management, pain control and personal care. The Hospice Home also offers respite care for caregivers taking care of loved ones at home. Respite care, which is limited to five consecutive days, gives families a break from continuous care. Our team coordinates with caregivers to ensure the transition to and from the home goes smoothly.

Hospice workers are drawn to helping others and know they make a difference in people’s lives. There’s a satisfaction that comes from knowing you’ve been able to help people at a time in their lives when they’re vulnerable and scared.

Knowing that patients will die in your care is difficult, but it’s gratifying to be able to keep people at ease and support their families. It’s a privilege getting to know patients and families. We get to listen to the wonderful stories of a life well-lived and to encourage a time for reflection and meaningful conversations. Hospice staff can bring a sense of normalcy and peace to their journey. We are privileged to be able to educate and comfort people through this very personal stage in their lives. It is not only our privilege to care for them, it’s an honor to be there for them at such a difficult time.