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Enhancing the Quality of Life at the End of Life

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In our great-grandparents’ time, birth and death were commonplace occurrences in the family home and were accepted as natural events. With time and the advance of medicine, birth and death were transplanted to a new and often strange and intimidating environment: the modern hospital, where family members were merely guests and control rested with unknown health professionals.
While acknowledging the many benefits of modern medicine, a group of healthcare workers, clergy and other thoughtful people began wondering in the 1970s whether these advances, by depriving the natural dying process of its family ties, hadn’t also robbed it of its dignity. Out of their concerns, hospice care was born in the United States, and the natural process of dying was returned to the home. Hospice has experienced extraordinary growth since then, and there are now more than 3,100 hospices serving approximately 700,000 terminally ill patients each year in every state of the union and the District of Columbia.
Bringing death out into the open and making sickness and loss a time of sharing and remembrance is difficult. And while the hospice experience may not be for everyone, those who choose hospice find the specialness of caring for a loved one and the richness of sharing memories of youth, trials and joys a rewarding experience never to be forgotten.
Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the first modern hospice in London in 1968, summed up the hospice philosophy best when she told her patients, “You matter to the last moment of your life, and we will do all we can, not only to help you die peacefully, but to live until you die.”
The day may come when it seems nothing can be done for an ailing loved one. In terms of cure, that may be true. In terms of care, it is far from true. That may be the day to call on hospice. Most people do not want to die alone in sterile, impersonal surroundings, hooked up by tubes to machines and cut off from their families and everything that is familiar. Nor do they want to die in pain. They would prefer, if possible, to spend their last days at home alert and free from pain among the people and things they love. Hospice is dedicated to making that possible.
Hospice treats the whole person and the family, not the disease. An interdisciplinary team consisting of physicians, nurses, certified home health aides, medical social workers, chaplains and specially trained volunteers work together to meet the medical, emotional and spiritual needs of the patient and family. Patients are encouraged to make their own decisions about how they want to live their lives to the fullest and to participate in their own care at a time when they feel vulnerable and afraid.
Hospice is available to adults and children with any type of life-limiting condition including cancer, cardiac, respiratory, renal and neurological diseases. Patients may be referred to hospice by anyone–family, concerned friend or health care professional.
Optimal Hospice does not bill families for the services that they provide. The cost of hospice care is covered by Medicare, Medi-Cal and most private insurance plans. Even patients without insurance can receive comprehensive hospice care through the financial support provided by Optimal Hospice Foundation, which raises money to ensure that anyone who wants hospice can have it.
Optimal Hospice recognizes the healthcare professionals and dedicated volunteers who make hospice care available regardless of race, religion, color, national origin, disability, age, sex or ability to pay.
If you would like more information about Optimal Hospice Care services please contact us in Stockton, (209) 670-8000 or at our Modesto location, (209) 338-3000.