End of life care is crucial for hospice patients

Vivian Dodge, executive director of Chapters Health Hospice in Monroe County, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to discuss what the organization offers. 

What do patients need most at the end of life?

Dodge said, “What I find most patients and families say when they’re told about a terminal prognosis, obviously, it can be quite upsetting. But once the realization sets in, and they’re on hospice care, I see that there are both tangible and intangible wants and desires of that person. Patients obviously, definitely want some pain control or relief from other symptoms that they may have, like shortness of breath or nausea.”

They might also want items that we use to make the day to day life a little easier.

Dodge said, “They’re in home, certain medical equipment, a hospital bed, a walker, oxygen, a wheelchair. Those I consider tangible aspects of end of life care.”

A hospice care coordinator will provide all those needs and hospice typically covers it.

Dodge said, “Intangible aspects, I like to categorize them as the three T’s. And the three T’s are truth, touch and time, and I think the three T’s encompass more of the emotional component of an individual. What I see when it comes to truth is patients, they really want other people, their family, their friends, their physicians, to be truthful to them. Be truthful when you’re talking about the disease, prognosis or treatment options, or your personal relationships. Patients want others to be honest with them. So physicians, please tell them that the treatment or the chemotherapy is no longer efficacious. Family members and friends, it’s okay to tell them that you’re afraid, too. We don’t know the unknown. Talk about the reality of death, even if it is difficult. I think most importantly, for everyone is that tell them that hospice is not giving up, it really is an alternative care option.”

What does touch effect?

Dodge said, “What I see is that once patients are in hospice, they begin to speak of their relationships with the people they love, and who love them. So they begin to talk about what life means to them, and how they might be remembered, their legacy, if nothing else. They start to worry about those that they’re going to be leaving behind and how will they manage? Patients want to be touched physically, and emotionally, they want someone to give them a hug, hold their hand, laugh with them, they want to be reminded that they’re still living, even if they have a terminal prognosis. There’s a lot of living that can be done in your last six months of life. What we find is so often that friends and families start to distance themselves from the individual as the disease progresses. At this point in someone’s life, attention, touch affection, means so much to that person.”

Time is also incredibly important.

Dodge said, “The clock is ticking for all of us, but hospice patients, when they’re talking about time, they want time with their family, trying to cross off items on their bucket list. Time to reminisce. Time helps them to come to terms with their illness, and their own losses, and their own grief. Most importantly, we should always remember that time gives us more opportunities to speak what is in your heart. That is so important. Say the I love yous, say we had a great life together, we had a great trip. So often, we forget that we love others and we often don’t always express I love you, but we might say, hey, call me when you get home. Those are other ways that we express our love and let that person know. Time is precious.”

Chapters Health Hospice is hosting a special community valor pinning event.

Dodge said, “Our valor program is a recognition program for our veterans, active military and first responders and we are having a special event on Saturday, November 4, in Key West at Hero Bar. It’s from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. It is our way to say thank you, for our first responders, our veterans, active military for their dedicated service. It’s a bit of an open house, a slightly less formal event. It is our way to acknowledge and recognize, express our appreciation for everything that all these individuals do to keep us safe and healthy in our lives, here in the community. We look forward to seeing everyone and meeting everyone. So please come by. It’s a special recognition. You get a chance to meet some of my staff and we get a chance to meet you. So thank you for everything you do.”