What is hospice?
Hospice is a welcome and shelter structure that aims to offer the best palliative care to cancer patients (but not only), when the integrated and specialized home care programs are no longer able to assist. Generally, hospices are small social-health structures and they look more like residences with spaces also dedicated to the patient’s family; rarely found inside hospitals.
Support for a patient and their family members, in the most advanced stage of the disease, must include a team of specialists that includes doctors and nurses, able to manage symptoms, improve quality of life, while respecting the wishes and dignity of the patient.
In this path, a fundamental role is played precisely by the hospices, now present throughout the national territory, albeit with some inequalities between the different regions. On the website of the Italian Federation of Palliative Care you can find a map of hospices in Italy: http://www.fedcp.org/cure-palliative/hospice-in-italia.html.
Choosing a hospice does not mean giving up but rather relying on specialists with the best skills to support the patient and family members in one of the most difficult phases of the disease.
Why choose hospice?
In support of this, in late 2016, in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the official journal of the American Society of Medical Oncology, a paper was published, where more than 2,000 family members of patients diagnosed with lung and colon cancer were interviewed, 50% of whom are admitted to a hospice. The questions aimed to investigate whether hospice hospitalization improved symptom relief, end-of-life quality, while respecting the patient’s wishes. Everything was correlated with the number of days spent in hospice.
The results showed that the patients, admitted to a hospice, had received, with respect to others, “just the right level of help with pain and dyspnea, not too much or too little”, together with an excellent quality of end of life care. It was also found that the wishes of patients were respected to a greater extent for hospice patients. Finally, the longer the stay in hospice, the better the results were.
This is why it is good to speak about this topic with your oncologist to see if and when to enter a patient’s hospice.