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In the end, hospice care can help

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CCH building

The front entrance to the Columbus Community Hospital, 4600 38th St.

If given a choice, most of us would probably choose to spend our final days in comfortable surroundings with those closest to us. For those nearing the end of a terminal illness, hospice care offers a welcome, comforting option. By allowing patients to receive pain management and symptom control at home among family and friends, hospice care can help create a more positive and dignified end-of-life experience.

Hospice care is unique in the medical world. Most medical specialties focus on improving health, but hospice care embraces the natural end to life and focuses on bringing comfort during those final days. It does not aim to prolong life or accelerate death. Rather, hospice care allows those with a life expectancy of six months or fewer to spend their final days living life to the fullest rather than pursuing curative treatment.

How it works

The first step in receiving hospice care is to discuss options with your doctor. They will contact hospice, although you or your family may also choose to make that call. A hospice care provider will then meet with the patient and evaluate their needs. The patient, their loved ones and a multidisciplinary hospice care team (composed of physicians, nurses, health aides, social workers, spiritual caregivers, therapists and volunteers) work together to create a personalized plan for care.

Hospice patients may be treated in any environment — at home or in an assisted living facility or skilled nursing facility, for example. Having hospice at home means nurses will serve as a liaison with the rest of the care team, who are available to treat you around the clock. Hospice services generally include:

• Physician services.

• Home visits by nurses.

• Home health aides who can assist with needs such as dressing and bathing.

• Pain control and symptom management.

• Social work and counseling services.

• Medical equipment and supplies.

• Support for caregivers and family members.

What to look for

To find a hospice program, start by asking trusted health care providers or friends and family for recommendations. You can also search for and compare local services through the National Hospice Foundation at, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization at or the Nebraska Hospice & Palliative Care Association at

Consider asking the following questions:

• What services are provided?

• How soon can services begin?

• How will care providers keep the patient comfortable and control pain?

• What is the patient-to-caregiver ratio?

• How frequent are home visits on average?

• How are after-hours questions and concerns handled?

• Will the patient see the same caregivers over time?

• Is the program accredited by The Joint Commission or another recognized accrediting body?

Here for you

Choosing hospice care can help make a patient's final days as easy and pleasant as possible, which can also give families comfort and help them cope with losing a loved one. To learn more about Columbus Community Hospital’s hospice services, please call 402-562-3300.

Jody Willison, RN, is the director of Home Health and hospice at Columbus Community Hospital.


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