Catholic hospice care a way to live fully as death approaches

| Deb Lane | October 21, 2015 | 0 Comments

Editor’s note: To highlight The Catholic Spirit’s special section on hospice care and funeral planning, and All Souls Day, which the Church will observe Nov. 2, archdiocesan leaders invited a representative of Our Lady of Peace Home to reflect on the role of hospice care.

It was Dec. 7, 1941. As the nation turned its eyes to Pearl Harbor and the attack that would spur the U.S. to enter World War II, five Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne were opening an end-of-life nursing facility in St. Paul. Then called Our Lady of Good Counsel Home, it began as a place for terminal cancer patients who were unable to afford care in other nursing facilities or to continue care at home.

When most people think of hospice care, they think of an inpatient facility or hospital, but it’s broader than that. Hospice care is a type of care — and philosophy of care — that focuses on the palliation of the pain and symptoms of a chronically ill, terminally ill or seriously ill patient. It also includes attending to a patient’s emotional and spiritual needs. Hospice can provide inpatient care for those in nursing or other facilities, but it can also help those who wish to remain in their own homes. Many people want to stay in a familiar environment and remain as close as possible to loved ones.

With the approach of all All Souls Day, the Church in her wisdom turns our minds to the inevitability of death. While each hospice patient presents his or her own unique concerns, we must keep in mind that more than medical care, hospice is called to deliver God’s love and eternal promise. Hospice is not “giving up” life. Instead, Catholic hospice care encourages life to be lived fully, free from loneliness, pain and despair, while giving an individual the opportunity to complete important life work, such as forgiving and seeking forgiveness, sharing love, and putting closure to tasks and relationships.

Under this broader way of thinking about end-of-life care, the needs of family, friends, and caregivers are also taken into account. It recognizes that loved ones are also on a difficult journey and may benefit from support, expert advice and services that we can provide.

Hospice care can be provided to patients with a life expectancy of six months or less. Rather than seeking a cure, hospice care aims to make their remaining time as comfortable and as meaningful as possible. This may mean pain relief and nursing care, but also includes emotional support and help with everyday tasks. In hospice, pain is managed properly, hydration and nutrition are maintained as the patient tolerates, the process of dying is respected, and the patient is allowed to experience natural rather than engineered death.

A multi-disciplinary team of physicians, nurses, hospice aides, social workers, bereavement counselors and volunteers work together to address the physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs of each patient and family. Our Lady of Peace provides care to patients regardless of the patient’s age or ability to pay.

In Western society, the concept of hospice has been evolving in Europe since the 11th century. For centuries thereafter in Roman Catholic tradition, hospices were places of hospitality for the sick, wounded, or dying, as well as those for travelers and pilgrims.

The modern concept of hospice emerged in the 17th century, and includes palliative care for the incurably ill provided by hospitals and other institutions, but also provided care to those who choose to spend their last months and days of life in their own homes.

In the 1980s, Medicare authorized formal hospice care and Medicare hospice benefits became part of Medicare Part A. State-run insurances or Medicaid also offer hospice benefits, as do most private insurances.

In 2009, the Dominican sisters turned over operation of Our Lady of Good Counsel Home to Franciscan Health Community. In 2011, the name was changed to Our Lady of Peace Home. We have expanded our mission to provide free end-of-life care to adults with any terminal illness, not just those with cancer.

The Vatican makes clear the right to life not just for Catholics but for all faiths, and encourages each to live that life to the fullest as God has determined without man-made restrictions. The teaching of our most beloved St. Pope John Paul II regarding sickness and death reflects that our Lord has a passionate concern for the sick, the suffering and the dying.

St. Pope John Paul II raised the voice of the Church, urging that those experiencing terminal illness receive the care due to them according to Scripture, and are not preyed upon and offended at a sacred time of life. The terminally ill deserve the solidarity and affection from those providing care until natural death occurs.

Lane is the community liaison of Our Lady of Peace, a Catholic hospice in St. Paul.

Cuidado de hospicio Católico un medio para vivir plenamente mientras se acerca la muerte

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Category: Only Jesus