November is National Hospice/Palliative Care Month, a time to raise awareness about care for people coping with life-limiting illness.

Every year, more than 1.5 million patients receive care from hospices in the United States. Hospice programs provide pain management, symptom control, psychosocial support and spiritual care to patients and families who are facing a terminal illness (usually with a prognosis of six months or less).

Hospice care is intended not only for the patients, but also to provide support for the family during a very difficult time. The object of hospice is to treat the whole person, not just a disease. Hospice consists of an interdisciplinary team of health care professionals including nurses, aides, social workers, physicians, therapists and chaplains who address the physical, spiritual and emotional needs for the patient and family. It focuses on maintaining the best quality of life possible for a person nearing the end of life.

Some of the major responsibilities of the interdisciplinary hospice team are to:

• Manage pain and symptoms.

• Provide emotional support.

• Provide needed medications, medical supplies and equipment.

• Coach family members on how to care for the patient.

• Provide special services such as therapy when needed.

• Make inpatient care available if pain or symptoms become too difficult to manage at home.

• Provide grief support to family members.

In order to qualify for hospice care, a person must no longer be seeking aggressive treatment for a disease, such as chemotherapy or radiation. The focus is on alleviating pain and symptoms associated with pain instead of a cure. Chaplain services are available through hospice, along with bereavement counseling for the family after the patient’s death.

Hospice is also able to assist with pharmacy services for medications that are related to the terminal illness. In addition to that, nurses are on call 24 hours a day to assist as needed or if there is a change in the patient’s condition.

In Henry County, we are fortunate to have our own local hospice providers. Henry County Medical Center Home Health and Hospice is a progressive, community home care provider serving the needs of Henry, Benton, Carroll, Humphreys, Stewart and Weakley counties. Our staff provides valuable physical assessment, evaluation and instruction for the patient and family, while closely monitoring the patient’s condition with regular reports to their physician.

HCMC will be hosting a Lunch to Learn on Nov. 21 with information about hospice care and services. The speaker will be Cynthia Stigall, director of HCMC Home Health and Hospice. The luncheon will take place in the HCMC Diagnostic Center atrium, with lunch beginning at 11:30 a.m., followed by the speaker at noon. Call the HCMC FindLine at 644-3463 to register for this free event.

LORI STAMBAUGH is the community nurse educator at Henry County Medical Center. A registered nurse, she has a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

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