My friend Steve and I, who happens to be the IT Director for Solaris Hospice, love hiking when we have the opportunity. Luckily, we occasionally find ourselves in Colorado where hiking opportunities abound. Our favorite type of hiking tends to be summit hiking. As it sounds, summit hiking involves following a designated trail to the summit of a mountain. Summit hiking is very often a bittersweet journey. Altitude, steep grades, unstable footing, rocky terrain, weather and more can make parts of the ascent downright miserable. But when you reach the summit, something magical happens.
The obvious joy of reaching the top and gazing out at the amazing view hits first but is by no means the end. As the awe of being on top and all that comes with it settles in, you start to realize that the miserable parts on the way up weren’t so miserable after all. The physical challenge you experienced is no less real but you start to find the appreciation in the ascent itself. The summit is not reached without the difficult journey. You can’t have one without the other. The summit is the goal that keeps you going when it feels like you’re losing a lung, and once reached, the summit is what brings full appreciation of the journey.
Anyone who has worked in hospice care for any amount of time knows it can be physically tiring and emotionally taxing. In many ways, hospice care is like summit hiking. The goal of the hospice caregiver is to help the patient reach the twin peaks of comfort and dignity. This of course involves a journey that includes the unstable footing of disease, the rocky terrain of pain and symptoms and the sometimes stormy weather of family dynamics. It can become difficult to keep pushing for the summit.
This is where you discover that, like summit hiking, hospice care is best done with others. Pushing for a summit alone is much more difficult than doing so with even just one other person. Thankfully, hospice care is delivered in a team setting. Different team members act as guides for the patient and family at different times, and in turn provide support and relief for each other. The joy of reaching the summit with the patient sets in and only then is the true beauty of the journey revealed.
We’d love to hear from other providers and hospice caregivers. How do you and your team support each other?
Originally posted on helium.com and written by Dr. Pandula Siribaddana.
What is palliative care?
In the early days, the doctors and medical professionals were striving for the ultimate cure even when the latest scientific evidence indicates the end of no return. Even though this is what is expected of a developing science like medicine, the over ambitious strive for a cure could well be failed with patients undergoing immense hardships for a cure that was not at all realistic. Thus, the quality of life in such patients were almost neglected or in other words ‘masked’ by the over ambitiousness of the health care providers.
In recent times, the health care providers have increasingly recognised the need to improve the quality of life in patients with terminal illnesses and thus came the term ‘palliative care’. The objective of this type of medical care is to alleviate the patient as much as possible from the symptoms of the disease rather than just trying to cure the disease regardless of what the patient will feel. It also tackles the problem of side effects caused by the chemotherapy and other means of treatment by giving counteracting drugs or treatment.
What is hospice?
Hospice is the terminology used in identifying service providers which provides palliative care for patients who are suffering from overwhelming disease conditions which almost certainly lead to fatal outcomes. It can also be used to treat patients who are suffering from exacerbation symptoms of chronic incurable diseases.
The patient care may be provided in an inpatient setting, at home, as respite care or else even as routine visits.
What methods are used in alleviating pain and other symptoms in palliative care?
Out of many symptoms suffered by patient with terminally ill disease conditions such as cancer; pain, nausea, breathing difficulties, weight loss, loss of appetite, incontinence, depression, social withdrawal can be considered as the important symptoms and signs which needs attention. Thus, the palliative care providing team would make sure they advocate the best possible care towards improving the quality of life of such patients. Following are some of the methods that can be used in making palliative are successful.
1. Pain relief : Use of strong Opioid analgesics would be a possible alternative to other pain relief modalities and thus would be more effective.
2. Treating side effects: treatment would be given for nausea, loss of appetite,weight loss, strength building, gastric irritations…etc. Antacids, antiemetic, appetite builders as well as high protein high caloric diets would be useful in this aspect.
3. Reliving social withdrawal : Treating the patient in home setting with caregiver support as well as making the patient to involve in activities of daily living to the extent which he is able to attend would make the patient feel useful as well as happy.
4. Attending to depressive status : providing psychiatric support as well as pampering the patient with tender loving care will facilitate such status improvement and thus the quality of life of the patient.
5. Improving the mental state : Incorporating methods of spiritual uplifting as well as relaxation techniques would facilitate this process and has proved to be very much effective.
Do you have any experience with palliative care or hospice? We’d love to hear your story.
Here at Solaris we have always considered ourselves to be a family. Even our web address carries that message (solarisfamily.com). So today we’d like to honor a very special group of our family that means a lot to us. This week is of course National Nurses’ Week and as the week draws to a close our family put together this special thank you message to all of our amazing nurses. They impact families every day in ways they don’t even realize. Hospice care in particular takes a special kind of nurse and we undoubtedly have some of the best you’ll find anywhere. Thank you to each one of our incredible nurses.
Guest blogger: Mike Bradford
From time to time I need to remind myself that we actually have two sets of customers in hospice care. As I remind myself today, I am reminding you too.
We refer to our customers as patients but they are customers of the service we offer. I think that in the majority of cases we find it very easy to be compassionate and caring to the specific patient but we can sometimes forget about family members and caregivers. These are our customers also. There are also the facilities that we go into, physicians we report to and providers we coordinate with which are also our customers.
Here is an acrostic made from the word CARE to help you remember the hospice mission:
Compassion: We are the one’s caring for the patients and they are the ones who have the terminal illness. One day we may know what that is like but for now we do not and so always remember; it’s very possible you are having a better day than our patients and their families. Thank the Lord that you are able to go and care for the patients, put a smile on your face, a pleasant tone in your voice and deliver the best care that you are able to deliver.
Attention: Whether you or I are in a patient’s private residence, facility or wherever they call home, we need to bear in mind that our actions, expressions and words are always going to be on view. Give attention to details in all settings whether it is in assessing the patient needs, helping with bathing, or making sure that medicines are adequately supplied. When we pay attention to the details big events are less likely to occur.
Reciprocation: No one likes it when they feel like they are brushed off by someone in a hurry or having a bad day. With that in mind, when you are meeting with a customer, the expectation should be to ensure they are treated with respect and courtesy, the way that you would want to be treated. If someone asks you a question, do not rush through any answer that you give. If you rush, you may not communicate the message you intend, causing confusion and you will inevitably give the impression that you are rushing. Be courteous in ALL communications whether answering a question or asking a question and most people will reciprocate with you.
Excellence: The number one thing we need to always keep in mind the best service we can provide is excellence. Take ownership of situations. When asked something, you may not have the answer right away but let the person that is asking know that you will find out or that you will have someone who can help them then follow through and follow-up to make sure it has not fallen through a crack.
If you want to make a huge impression on our customers/patients, be a good listener and leave them with the impression they were your priority for the few moments they needed you to be a good listener.
Finally, do your best to seize on anything positive you can see in the people you meet and think of that quality. If you tend to think of that person in a negative way, I can guarantee that you will convey those negative thoughts to that person when you see them in your speech and body language. Excellence and professionalism are absolute necessities in our job functions. Hang on to the positive attributes you see in people, no matter how small they may seem, and your job will go much smoother.
In short, customer service and marketing are jobs that we all take part in. Let’s do our job with excellence.
Recently, a Solaris team of 7 men returned from the country of Nepal. They spent 9 days hiking through the Himalayas carrying hope in the form of medical care to some of the most remote villages in the area. They worked among the Tibetan people living in northern Nepal and were only half a mile from the border of Tibet some days. It was a successful trip and Solaris is proud to have been a part of improving the health and education in this remote area of Nepal. A video giving more detail on the trip will be posted soon but for now enjoy these few images from the trip.