Hospice is a philosophy of caring for those with a life-threatening illness. The hospice philosophy holds that end-of-life care should emphasize the quality of life. Hospice focuses on patient and family-centered care that addresses the physical, emotional, spiritual and practical needs of the patient. Hospice cares for patients in a variety of settings: home, nursing homes, assisted living centers and the Hospice House.
The goal of hospice services is best expressed in the words of modern-day hospice founder Dame Cicely Saunders:
"You matter because you are you. You matter to the last moment of your life. We will do all we can, not only to help you die in peace but also to live until you die."
What Are My Options?
The "What Are My Options?" interactive tool is designed to provide information that may help guide your healthcare choices if you or a loved one are facing a serious illness... especially if that illness is getting worse. In less than 60 seconds, you'll have important answers to help guide your decisions.
Who We Treat
Patients determined to be at the end stages of illness (doctor prognosis of six months or less to live) are entitled to care by Hospice of St. Mary's. Please understand that the six-month prognosis is merely a guideline. Hospice re-evaluates patients every 60 days and, as long as their conditions continue to decline, they are re-certified for hospice coverage for as long as they live.
What We Do
Hospice cares for the whole person and his or her family as one unit. The hospice team is guided by the goals, wants and needs of the patient and his or her family. Hospice makes many suggestions to help achieve the best quality of life possible, but the patient/family unit always has the final say in all care decisions.
The hospice interdisciplinary team is led by the patient and family and also includes:
- Hospice medical director
- Patient's attending physician
- Registered nurses
- Medical social workers
- Hospice Aides
- Physical and speech therapists
- Grief counselors
The team is available to ensure comfort for the patient and support for the family. Every patient, along with his or her family, is assigned a registered nurse who provides pain and symptom management, and caregiver education. The registered nurse coordinates the provision of medical equipment, supplies, and medications. Nurses are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to offer advice, answer questions and make house calls. Hospice social workers assist patients and families in identifying their personal and community resources, and developing support networks to aid in coping with a life-limiting illness. Hospice aides, under the supervision of the registered nurse, provide patients with daily personal care and assistance, as needed. Trained volunteers offer assistance, support and respite to the family, and companionship to the patient. The hospice chaplain provides support and counseling to meet the spiritual needs of patients and families in a manner consistent with their beliefs and desires.
In addition to the interdisciplinary team, hospice also provides medications related to the diagnosis and needed to provide comfort. To help ensure independence and safety, hospice provides any durable medical equipment (hospital beds, oxygen, walkers, wheelchairs, canes, shower chairs, etc.) the patient might require.
Other services provided by hospice include continuous care provided in the home (by registered nurses and aides) during periods of medical crisis as necessary to maintain the patient at home; short-term inpatient care at MedStar St. Mary's Hospital provided for any symptoms that cannot be managed at home; respite care for up to five days every month at a contracted nursing facility (St. Mary's Nursing Home and Chesapeake Shores) to meet caregiver needs.
After the loss of a loved one, the hospice grief counselors offer support and education to family members for 13 months following the loss. Grief support is also open to anyone in the community who suffered a loss.
Deciding When Hospice is Appropriate
Hundreds of times each year, patients and families tell us that they wish they had entered the Hospice program sooner. It is a common misconception that care through Hospice of St. Mary's is only for the last few days or weeks of life when, in fact, patients and families can benefit most when they have Hospice during the final months of life.
The following are some signs that your loved one may benefit from Hospice care:
- An increase in pain, nausea, breathing distress or other symptoms Repeated hospitalizations or trips to the emergency department
- Failure to bounce back after medical setbacks occur
- Increasing assistance needed for walking, eating, bathing, dressing and/or going to the toilet
- Decreasing alertness (the patient is emotionally withdrawn, sleeping more or having increased difficulty with comprehension)
Caring for a seriously ill loved one takes its toll. Here are some signs that you and your family may benefit from Hospice:
- You are physically and/or emotionally exhausted from caring for your loved one
- Your family is feeling isolated because of caregiving demands or the uncertainties you feel about your loved one's future
- The patient or members of your family appear to need emotional support to cope with the impending death
- You are overwhelmed by the myriad of physical, financial, emotional and spiritual concerns arising because of the illness