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Hospice Care: A Family Affair

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  • Written By: Allied Services Integrated Health
Hospice Care: A Family Affair

Oftentimes I am asked by people, “So, Hospice: isn’t that only for the dying?” There are many misconceptions about exactly what Hospice care is, when it is needed, and who it supports. Hospice is indeed a service primarily for the sick and the dying. It is a unique type of service aimed at ameliorating the pain of patients whose disease progression is now beyond curative treatments.

However, Hospice is much more than that. It helps to be aware that when a disease comes to the life of a person, it also affects those they are close to. When we treat a hospice patient, we are treating someone’s father, someone’s spouse, someone who is loved and important to their family and friends. With this understanding in mind, our conception of what and who hospice care is for naturally expands to encompass those who are close to the patient.

The fact is that caring for those who care is an important part of Hospice. One example is respite care. This temporary level of care can give family members who have become caregivers much-needed rest. Volunteers also play an important role in providing relief and comfort to family members and caregivers. This group of volunteers, many of whom have experienced loss themselves, are able to empathize and understand how valuable rest and help around the home can be.

Or, one can think of the assistance that social workers bring to the support of loved ones. The aim is to help the family find the means to tackle the emotional and oftentimes financial burdens that illness brings.

Further, the support of the Hospice Chaplain is invaluable when at the encounter of disease and, especially terminal disease, there may arise questions that may lead a loved one to wonder about the presence of God in all of it. Hospice Chaplains are specialized and uniquely trained spiritual professionals who bring with them a vast sense of the understanding of spirituality in its various forms and a unique set of psycho-spiritual skills for the ministry to the sick as well as to their families.

But Hospice care does not stop there. Once the patient has completed their journey on this earth, the hospice team has a continued role to play in supporting the family. Grief is a process, not a destination. People process grief differently and each person in a family will grieve in their own unique way. It is for that reason that, Hospice also has support services for the family once a loved one has died.

That is to say, Hospice enters the life of the patient with the expectation that care and emotional support will be required for any loved one left behind. We mean by this that, the family will not be grieving alone. Hospice will follow the grieving family for up to a year through Bereavement services. This type of support is available to families because grief is a process that happens over time. We know from experience that having someone to call and lean on for support can help to lessen the pain of losing a loved one. It is with this support that life becomes meaningful once again.

About the Author: Gerlin Valencia, MDiv, ThM, PhD, is Chaplain for Allied Services Hospice & Palliative Care.Valencia holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Bluefield College, as well as a Master of Divinity in Pastoral Counseling with specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy, a Master of Theology in the Psychology of Religion and New Testament Language and Literature, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology of Religion and Pastoral Care and Counseling from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In his role, Gerlin will serve as a spiritual companion to patients and their families as they face the challenges of end-of-life care.

Learn more about Hospice & Palliative Care here or by calling 570-341-4320.