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What will it be like to have hospice in our home?

The hospice team will respect your privacy and work within your "house rules." While team members must be able to make visits as necessary, they will work with you to arrange times that are both convenient for the caregiver and appropriate to the needs of the patient.

Do we have to involve the entire hospice team?

No. The only required service is nursing. However, because the hospice philosophy seeks to address physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs, most families choose to involve the entire team, to varying degrees, over the course of their hospice experience.

What if there are young children in our home?

Hospice social workers are experienced in helping children cope with fears and questions relating to illness, death and grief. They recognize that, even within the same family, children may experience loss in vastly different ways. Hospice staff will be available to support them in a secure and helpful environment. Many byservices hospice services exist to help children view this experience as a part of the natural life cycle.

Will I be prepared for any situation?

One of the hospice team's primary responsibilities focuses on teaching the family what to do - and what not to do - in the event of a medical crisis. When the patient is being cared for at home, you can contact a hospice nurse by telephone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A simple telephone call immediately puts you in touch with expert advice, and if necessary, after-hours visits can be quickly arranged, any time of day or night.

What if we're not sure whether hospice is right for us?

The decision to accept hospice is not an easy one, for the patient or the family. To many people, the word "hospice" means that death is imminent, even though this may not be the case. Call your local hospice so that the services can be explained objectively in terms of individual choice. Hospice staff members welcome the opportunity to speak with patients and families, and their input will often make your decision less traumatic. If the patient does not choose hospice after a careful consideration of the options, those wishes will be respected. You can always get back in touch with the hospice should your decision change.

What kind of support systems will hospice provide?

Hospice understands that it takes great commitment, compassion and courage for a family member to become the primary caregiver. Experienced hospice staff can assure that patients retain their dignity even as the disease progresses. Family and friends will receive practical support and education with regard to your personal care, nutrition, breathing, pain management, hygiene and the symptoms of your illness. They will also be supported emotionally and spiritually, both during and after your illness. Volunteers and home health aides can provide periodic respite, so that they have moments for themselves and time to keep up with the tasks of normal living. The hospice team also can identify additional community resources which may be of help during this time.

How does the family manage the patient's care?

Hospice relies on teamwork. The patient and family are the center of the team, surrounded by professionals and volunteers with years of experience in caring for terminally ill patients. At first, it may seem frightening to care for a loved one at home. Remember, family members will not be alone, but a part of a team. Hospice also can help the family develop a plan for sharing the workload, thus easing the burden on any single individual.

How does a family cope with its emotions?

Everyone responds differently to illness and loss. Hospice social workers specialize in the complex issues relating to loss and are available to assist the patient, family and loved ones. Social work visits may involve discussions regarding your deepest concerns, or they may be as simple as a chat about your day. It's up to you. Hospice offers continuing emotional support for at least a year following a death, and there also are many programs offered at no charge for people suffering from grief, whether or not they were served by hospice.