ADVENTIST LA GRANGE MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: What Is Hospice Care (And What Is It Not)
Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital issued the following announcement on Aug. 2.
“I think people naturally don’t want to talk about death,” says Dr. Richard Wolfe, medical director of The Ark, the inpatient unit at Rainbow Hospice & Palliative Care (part of AMITA Health) in Mount Prospect. “But it’s something all of us will experience.”
Exuding compassionate calm, Dr. Wolfe has a way of bringing a sense of peace and well-being to end-of-life care. “We talk about someone having a good death, which might seem like an odd expression. But the reality is we have one chance to help someone’s ending be as good as it can be. We want that death to be as comfortable as possible.”
Care for More Than Just the Patient
One of the first realizations we had in conversation with Dr. Wolfe was that while the patient is the priority, they aren’t the only ones the hospice team has to care for. “We’re not just taking care of patients, we’re taking care of their families, too,” he says. “They’re sad, and they’re really suffering, too. We want to make sure that they feel a sense of safety and that we’re supporting them as much as we’re supporting the patient.”
In some ways, families can need even more attention than patients do. Sometimes, the patient isn’t alert enough to know what’s happening, while the family has to cope with both the stress of losing a loved one and with the complexities of medical care. In those cases, the patient’s loved ones might need a lot of spiritual and psychological support.
The doctors at Rainbow Hospice aren’t on their own, either. Besides doctors, nurses and nurse’s aides, the team also includes chaplains and social workers trained to help people manage the emotional burdens of hospice care. “We work really closely as a team,” says Dr. Wolfe. “Probably much more closely than any other area of medicine that I’ve worked in. We rely on each other, and we’re all equally important, whether we work with spiritual issues or just regular clinical stuff.”
Comfort & Grace Before the End (Not Just at the End)
One of the most common misconceptions people have about hospice care is that it’s only for patients who are at the very end of their lives. “Most people probably think that they don’t need hospice care until they’re on their deathbed,” says Dr. Wolfe. “The reality is that most people would probably benefit from hospice care for a longer period of time.” A lot of valuable work can be performed by and with patients in hospice care, including bringing families back together, helping patients prepare themselves and seek out meaningful resolutions for the life they’ve lived. That takes time.
“We have one chance to help someone’s ending be as good as it can be. We want that death to be as comfortable as possible.”
Typically, hospice care is meant for a patient estimated to live six months or fewer. Although a little reluctance to check into hospice is understandable, Dr. Wolfe says that using that time in the best way is the most important part of his job. “Even when you have a terminal illness, there are a lot of good days that can be had. Our job is not to think about someone dying as much as to help them live as best as they can in the time that they have.”
Enriching Life with Art & Music
Since Rainbow Hospice administers to both the physical and spiritual needs of the people in their care, it might not be surprising that art and music make up a big part of the therapies that they provide. “Music is one of those things that everyone can connect to,” says Dr. Wolfe. “It also stimulates the brain in a way that other types of therapies just don’t.”
Rainbow Hospice has a music therapist that comes in a few times per week to give the inpatients a chance to feel the healing power of music. “Whether it’s playing a harp, or one of her other instruments, she helps a lot of people,” says Dr. Wolfe. “So many people find that they’re just much more comfortable with her therapies.”
Art therapy can take the form of giving patients the opportunity to explore their own creativity, and it can also come in the form of filling the space with artwork. “We have a collection of art that’s done by Misericordia, an organization that takes care of developmentally disabled kids. The kids do all the paintings,” Dr. Wolfe says. “They’re wonderful things that we have throughout the unit. Art and music, they touch on a different part of our brain. And everybody can make a difference when you touch that.”
Dr. Wolfe had one more thought to share about how people might think about hospice in a healthy way. “There are times that are sad, to grieve and to see people grieving. But the truth is it can be a joyful sort of thing, too. After someone has suffered with an illness for a long period of time, we are there to help them be comfortable, to give them dignity and to care for them up until the very last minute.”
Original source can be found here.
Source: Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital