Deciding to start hospice care can be challenging for seniors and their loved ones, but understanding what to expect from the process can make the transition easier. Seniors living in communities under the Bethesda Senior Living Communities Umbrella can receive faith-centered, compassionate hospice services in their assisted living apartments delivered by a dedicated care team. Below, you can learn about the professionals involved in a hospice care team and their roles.
A hospice care team includes professionals from a range of disciplines working together to provide high-quality medical, emotional and spiritual care at the end of life. Hospice services aim to ensure patients and their families enjoy the best possible quality of life while maintaining comfort and dignity.
Most hospice professionals work collaboratively with the person receiving care, which means care services are guided by the person's preferences and needs. However, they may also work with friends and family members if the person is unable to direct their own care.
Whether you're considering hospice care for yourself or supporting a loved one with a terminal illness, understanding the role of each hospice team member can be reassuring. Many hospice teams include the following professionals.
A hospice medical director has expertise in the medical and care needs of people nearing the end of their lives. They collaborate with the person's physician to develop a patient-centered care plan, which often includes medications to help manage pain and other symptoms. The medical director also coordinates care delivery by the hospice team to ensure the person receives the best possible care and symptom management during their time in a hospice or receiving hospice at home services.
Hospice physicians are doctors who provide palliative health care for people receiving hospice services. Often, hospice doctors hold certification in hospice and palliative medicine; many are also experienced geriatricians or family doctors.
Usually, hospice physicians have extensive expertise in pain and symptom management, allowing them to focus on keeping people comfortable. They may also provide treatment to help people maintain their functional abilities and independence for as long as possible so they can enjoy their usual leisure and social activities.
Hospice physicians often collaborate with family doctors and hospice medical directors to generate care plans. They also work closely with patients and their families to gain an understanding of their goals and wishes, allowing the care team to plan the right support to help them achieve their aims during hospice care. Sometimes, hospice physicians also cover the role of the medical director when the director is unavailable.
Hospice nurses provide medical care and can help assess and treat pain and symptoms. Furthermore, they support patients and their families in understanding what to expect as the person's illness progresses and what to do if they notice a change in their symptoms or condition.
Hospice social workers act as advocates for patients and their loved ones. They're responsible for ensuring the person's wishes are respected as they near the end of life and can provide practical support in areas such as preparing advance directives, dealing with insurers and helping with benefits applications. Social workers also offer emotional and psychosocial support for people with life-limiting illnesses and their family members.
Chaplains can offer support and a listening ear for people with life-limiting illnesses, and their services are available regardless of a person's spiritual or religious beliefs. They can also help loved ones process their feelings before and after a bereavement.
Chaplaincy services can be comforting for Christian seniors and their families because they can provide personalized support reflecting a person's faith traditions and offer spiritual insights. For example, you may wish to undergo spiritual preparation while receiving hospice services or take time for prayer and reflection. Some hospice teams also include spiritual counselors who deliver pastoral and spiritual care toward the end of life.
HHAs support people in hospices with personal care tasks, which may include activities such as bathing and dressing. They can also help with transferring and meal preparation when required, but they don't deliver medical care.
Many hospices train their HHAs to provide emotional support and companionship alongside practical and personal care. For example, an HHA can help maximize a person's quality of life by helping them participate in their favorite leisure activities, such as reading or playing games.
Grief counselors help support friends and family members experiencing the death of a loved one. Most hospices provide bereavement support both before and after the person passes away to help their families process their thoughts and feelings. Depending on your hospice care provider and your needs, these services may be available one-on-one or in small groups.
Many hospices have dedicated volunteers working to support hospice patients and their caregivers. All volunteers are carefully screened and receive training to help them understand how to care for people nearing the end of their lives. A volunteer may provide emotional support and companionship, and they can keep a person company while caregivers take time to rest and look after their own needs.
Some volunteers also train to assist people receiving hospice care with activities such as personal care and transferring. If you're receiving hospice services in your assisted living apartment, you could ask for volunteer support with housekeeping, meal preparation and errands.