National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

Submitted by Gerri Ackley and RoxAnne Arnett
Posted 12/1/22

Dear editor:

End of life care is not something we like to think about and will ignore until we are directly faced with it ourselves or for family members. But if we change how we look at hospice …

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National Hospice and Palliative Care Month


Dear editor:

End of life care is not something we like to think about and will ignore until we are directly faced with it ourselves or for family members. But if we change how we look at hospice and palliative services we may just find the care and support is a blessing we can all have.

The term hospice comes from French roots and the Latin word, “ha-spes” meaning, “a program designed to provide palliative care and emotional support to the terminally ill in a home or homelike setting so that quality of life is maintained, and family members may be active participants in care”

The first hospice was organized in 1967 by Dr. Cicely Saunders in London, called St. Christopher’s Hospice. Her goal was “to keep patients active, alert and in charge of decisions about their own care for as long as possible.”  The first hospice program in the United States began in New Haven, Connecticut in 1974, is now known as Connecticut Hospice. Announced in 1978 by then President Jimmy Carter, the month was established to recognize the efforts of those who provide end-of-life care, and to help raise awareness of the growing hospice movement so the community is familiar with the options available for people dealing with serious or life-limiting illness.

There comes a time when curative treatment is no longer an option or prolonging artificial life support is inappropriate. Hospice neither hastens nor postpones death. Rather, it seeks to enable patients to continue an alert, pain-free life and to manage other symptoms, this ensures that their last days may be spent with dignity and quality of life in a familiar place surrounded by people they love and know. 

Hospice and palliative care programs provide pain management, symptom control, psychosocial support, and spiritual care to patients and their families when a cure is not possible.  Hospice care focuses on the quality of life for the patient while supporting the family and caregivers.  Each patient has an individualized plan of care identifying their end-of-life goals and desires. Hospice collaborates with the patient, family, caregivers, physicians and the hospice team.  The hospice team of professionals include a nurse, nursing assistant, social worker, and a spiritual counselor. Patients may also receive physical therapy, occupational therapy, massage therapy, pet therapy, trained volunteer, dietician, and a pharmacist while on hospice. 

The biggest myth when it comes to hospice is people believe it is for the last few days to weeks of life.  That is not true, patients may be on hospice anywhere from a few hours to months or even years.  

Hospice also provides 13 months of bereavement care for the families and caregivers after the patient has passed.  This may include phone calls, letters, cards, or bereavement meetings.  May also include personal visits as needed or on a scheduled basis.  This is to assist the families through all the firsts, the first holiday, birthdays, anniversaries.  

Hospice is a 100% Medicare/Medicaid benefit and most private insurances have a hospice benefit as well, although they may have copays or required deductibles.  Occasionally patients do not have insurance or Medicare, there are donation fundings to assist financially for patients. 

There are several ways you may be referred to hospice services.  Your primary care provider may send a referral, you may call yourself or you may call for a friend or family member.  Once the referral is in our office, we do all the background work.  Our Community Relations Representative will contact the patient and family to set up time to meet and understand hospice services.  The nurse case manager will then do the admission assessment and make a plan to care the the patient and family.


Gerri Ackley


RoxAnne Arnett

Community Relations Representative Stillwater Hospice of Northern Wyoming