The value of hospice in the last days

The value of hospice in the last days


To the editor:

Most people are not familiar with the value hospice can provide in the last months, weeks or days of life. There is no need to be afraid of hospice. Hospice is there to help. Hospice specializes in making sure that the patient is living the best quality of life possible as they come to the end of their life.

There are two types of hospice care.  There are inpatient services in which the patient will be transferred to a local facility to have 24-hour care. This works out best for people who may not want their family members to have to care for them 24 hours a day.

There are also outpatient services in which hospice will come to the home and help with the care of the patient.  They will work hard to make sure that the patient and their family is supported in every facet, through any obstacle, mentally, emotionally, or medically. They are trained and know how to deal with whatever issues could arise.

Death can be scary to anyone who is dealing with it directly or indirectly. There can be many medical and emotional issues, as well. Hospice can help you and your family deal with both of these areas.

When a patient enters hospice, their family and the hospice coordinator will come up with a plan that will be followed through to the last days of life.  The goal is to make the patient as comfortable as possible. If the patient has any requests, this is the time to make them.

There are social workers and counselors on hand to help the patient deal with any questions, fears, or ideas of what death is going to be like. They will help patients and their families go through each phase as it occurs.  If the patient suffers with pain, hospice is there to give the patient the medicines they need to make them as comfortable as possible.

There are physicians, nurses, therapists, and even spiritual workers when needed. No matter what a patient is going through, hospice staff have been trained to help make the process as easy as possible.

Sometimes in the last days of life, a patient may fight hard to live.  It is a defense mechanism and something hospice workers have seen before. They know how to work with the patient and their loved ones to utilize this time as best as possible.

Other people may be inclined to let go more quickly. With trained team members, a patient can get the comfort they need at the pace they need it.  Death can be an extremely lonely road even when surrounded by people who love them.

If a patient starts regressing, talking about things that do not exist or that existed in the past, a family may not know how to deal with it.  The hospice team has been trained on how to handle these delicate situations.  They help ease fears. They know what is typical and what is not and they are ready to help you through this particularly tough time.

It is most important to know that hospice is available to help.  Talk to your primary care or specialty physician about hospice in advance of needing their services so that you can have a better understanding of how hospice can help you and your loved ones.

Southcoast Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) provides hospice services from Rhode Island to Cape Cod. For more information on Southcoast VNA’s Hospice program, visit

Mark Shparber, MD

Southcoast Centers for Cancer Care

A medical oncologist in the region for more than 20 years, Dr. Shparber serves as the medical director for the hospice program for the Southcoast Visiting Nurse Association.