Welcome to House of Light, a blog produced and managed by the staff of Casa de la Luz Hospice. Casa de la Luz ("house of light" in Spanish) is a locally owned and operated hospice, serving the city and surrounding communities of Tucson, Arizona. Through this blog, we hope to offer education, information, and support about caregiving and hospice care to terminally ill patients and their loved ones. For more information, visit the contact us page.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Hospice Interdisciplinary Team

Facing the end of life for many is not purely physical; for most of us it is a physical, emotional, and spiritual journey. Hospice recognizes this fact, and supports the patient as a whole being, as well as offers support to families and loved ones. That support is offered by an interdisciplinary team, a group of hospice professionals who combine their individual knowledge and skills to offer patients care, support, and resources.

The nurse case manager assesses patient needs and coordinates care of the hospice team. Your case manager works closely with the hospice physician to determine patient needs and to decide how symptoms should be managed.  The case manager implements a comfort care plan that focuses on pain management and symptom control. The case manager provides education to the patient and the family, teaching them how to best care for the patient’s needs. The physician is also responsible for certifying that a patient is hospice appropriate, following the guidelines set by the Medicare Hospice Benefit.

The end of life is a highly emotional period of time, for the patient and their loved ones, and there are also often preparations that need to be made. Social workers are available to assist with social, emotional, and/or financial needs. They counsel and support the patient and family, are able to provide resources for funeral planning or financial assistance, and offer initial grief support. 

Spiritual counselors are also available to assess the patient’s and family’s spiritual needs, if any. They can provide spiritual counseling, refer the patient and family to community clergy, and also provide memorial and funeral preparation assistance. Counselors respect the individual religious backgrounds of a patient and family, and are not there to pass judgment. A patient and family might even choose to not utilize the counselor’s spiritual knowledge, but the counselor is happy to visit as a listener and companion.

Personal care needs can be fulfilled with the assistance of a home health aide. Basic needs, such as bathing and grooming, can be difficult, and the aide can provide the professional expertise and assistance that is needed to maintain personal hygiene. The home health aide also communicates any patient needs to the rest of the care team.

Some patients and families also choose to have a volunteer visit regularly. Volunteers offer companionship to the patient and respite for loved ones. They are happy to just sit with a patient as a comforting presence, or if the patient is up to it, they might offer friendly conversation, be a games partner, or participate in mutual interests and hobbies together. 

After the patient passes, a bereavement counselor is available for the family. Casa de la Luz Hospice follows the family for 13 months after the patient’s death, and grief support groups are offered on a regular basis. Individual counseling is also available.

At the end of life, you don’t have to be alone.

By Carrie Bui, Communications Specialist

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