The first day of ‘Sign-On’ to hospice
By Valerie Stoughton Hartman, RN
The first day of the ‘sign-on’ to hospice service is undoubtedly one of the hardest days. Regardless of how emotionally prepared care recipients and families are, this one signature forces a realization that an important life is in transition.
The decision is hard for emotional and psychological reasons.There is a distinction between waking up each day “living with” an illness versus waking up each day “dying from” one. In some ways it is hard for me to write and then reread the words here in this blog post … even knowing that hospice care is about “living with” serious illness for as long as possible. For so many, the word ‘hospice’ portends waking up each day to this shift in thinking that, simply said, causes a lot of fear and initiates grief. It can feel overwhelming. And the hospice team knows that.
The days and weeks after sign-on dissolve the power of that emotional response to the difficult decision to commit to hospice care.
Hospice celebrates life and restores hope, even during life’s transitions and challenges.
Hospice care is gentle and kind, personal, professional, and meaningful. The immediate rush of support on days one to three of hospice services will give you and your loved one the control, rather than take it away in such vulnerable times. This kind of whole-person clinical support changes the emotional tenor that at first is so frightening.
Hospice truly is a philosophy of care that supports the holistic needs of someone who is living with serious illness. Fear, anxiety, and grief are natural, and support is part of hospice. And in some ways, a hospice sign-on is a formality, a healthcare option allowing plenty of room to make choices that assist in the ability to “live with” serious illness for as long as possible. When symptoms are controlled, fear and anxiety reduced, and meaningful connections remain, will-to-live may actually factor into life extension.
Quality of life matters; but living as long as is meaningful matters more. And when considering the hospice experience from that viewpoint, meaning must be self-defined, especially by our loved one who takes that last breath. “Living with” is being redefined all along the way, naturally…supported…and with love.