One of my jobs at the nursing home is to take care of the hospice patients, along with my long term residents. The only real difference is that there is a help a phone call away when a patient is hospice. If you have a question all you do is call and they will walk you thorough the problem or situation and give you any needed guidance, or they are there to bounce off what you are thinking, in the middle of a problem that involves a hospice patient. I love working with the hospice staff when they are in the facility. They are a true blessing.
We often will have assistance from hospice when the patient is getting closer to death. It can involve anything form 24 hour nursing care that hospice will prov ide for the resident to a volunteer sitting with the patient around the clock to give the family members a break, and be ensured that their loved one will not be left alone. It should be stated that once a patient becomes hospice the level of their care does not change by the nursing home staff. They are still care for as they were prior to them becoming hospice. Once they are hospice it does not change the fact that the patient is dying, but hospice does not prolong the process or hurry the dying process. It is an individual expericene that varies according to each person. They all progress through the same stages, but some go quicker or slower then others. The hospice patient can also last longer then what one may think. We have had several patients that were hospice, actually start to thrive and do well, thus they are taken off hospice since they are expected to live longer then the 6 months that was predicted when they were admitted to hospice.
As a nurse with hospice patients we deal with death and the administration of pain medication and other liquid meds that are ordered by the hospice MD. The purpose of these medications is to keep the patient comfortable as they progress closer and closer to death. We use the liquid meds when the patients progress to the point where they are not able to swallow pills or become unresponsive to verbal and tactile stimuli. At this point they are able to swallow the liquids and are able to get some relief from the pain and anxiety that they are experiencing as they progress in the dying process.
Part of our job at this point is to administer the medications every hour to every 2 hours around the clock to control the pain of the dying patient as they progress closer and closer to death. Hospice is very good about controlling the pain in their patients. They meet with the patient often to ensure that they are not experiencing any pain and if they are they will adjust the medications accordingly.
We are there to support the family as their loved one makes the journey to the other side or towards heaven. We assist in calling the minister to have them anointed, along with giving them emotional support at this time. We are there in the nursing home and are communicating with them what is happening to their loved one as they get closer and closer to death.
After the death of the patient / resident hospice will continue to follow the family and provide counseling, and continued support for the family up to a year after the death. They will continue to help the family deal with the loss of their loves one.