Two of the most frequently asked questions we get about our Hospice Outreach Service (HOS) are:
- what is the difference between hospice and palliative care
- what does Cancer Relief HOS team do?
This week 5th – 11th October 2020 and today, on World Hospice and Palliative Care day, we thought it would be a good idea to try answer these questions and show you what it takes to provide these essential specialist medical and nursing services.
When considering the differences between hospice and palliative care, it’s easy to get confused. The two are very much intertwined and yet in other ways, they are different. Both are essential in ensuring a person, with a life limiting condition (an illness that can’t be cured and that you’re likely to die from), and their loved ones receives the support they need; both provide specialist care and comfort.
The simple reason that the differences between hospice and palliative care are so easily confused is because, while everything within hospice care is palliative, not everything palliative is hospice care. Palliative care can begin at diagnosis, and at the same time and throughout treatment, whereas Hospice care begins and focuses in the end of life phase of the person, usually within the last year of life.
These two services working together, as we do in Gibraltar, as a joint partnership, provides the people we care for and their families with a really comprehensive holistic support service.
So, a bit about Palliative Care Services
Like we said palliative care can start at diagnosis of a life limiting illness. Palliative care services are typically part of the local health authority and work from hospital or Primary Care environments. It provides treatment, care and specialised support. The primary aim of palliative care is to help people with life limiting illnesses live well and have the best quality of life possible for them through supporting any symptoms throughout their illness. It includes managing any physical symptoms a patient might experience as well as ensuring their and their loved ones emotional, spiritual, psychological and social needs are supported and met.
There are many misconceptions around palliative care which make it seem far more negative than it is:
- Receiving palliative care does not mean that your medical team have ‘given up’ on you or are not willing to treat your illness. You can receive palliative care support alongside treatments for your illness. It doesn’t mean you won’t be treated by specialists. You can receive both types of care together.
- Being offered palliative care does not mean that you are going to die soon. You can receive palliative care at any point in your terminal illness. Early palliative care support can really help some patients cope better with their illness and some people can have palliative care input years and months before their death.
Hospice care, similar but not the same.
Hospice care services can be provided primarily in two different forms, an in-patient unit or as our Hospice Outreach team (HOS) is, a community service. It includes palliative care and symptom support, but centres instead on a person’s last year (or less) of life and is primarily provided and managed by charities.
Hospice care takes a patient centred, whole family creative approach to care, therapy, and support. It does not hasten death, it focuses on prolonging a life of quality, empowering individual choice and providing end of life holistic care for the dying person and their loved ones. It includes an extensive variety of supportive and complementary therapies as well as specialist medical and nursing care. Emotional, spiritual and bereavement care is interwoven within the support offered by hospice services.
We like to view hospice care as really being about living; it is about accepting you cannot change that you are going to die, but that you can change the conversation to how you what to live the rest of your life, how you choose to celebrate and depart it.
Our Cancer Relief Hospice Outreach Service (HOS)
Our professional team consists of 4 registered nurses and 3 healthcare assistants, led by our experienced Hospice Clinical Nurse Specialist and our dedicated part-time doctor. We offer everything that hospice care embraces.
As a community hospice service, we support and care for people with life limiting illness due to cancer wherever they may be – hospital, home or ERS.
All our nurses are supported to train in specialised palliative/hospice care skills and work with patients and families to help support their wishes and provide the care important to them. To achieve this, we work with GPs, Community Nursing teams, Specialist Palliative Care nurses and Health and Community Services.
A major part of what we do is to simply be there to listen to what is important to you and your family and do our best to take away some of the daily stresses your illness can cause in your life. Our nurses and doctor can advise and help with the management of symptom control issues as well as assist with the coordination of your care between all the shared clinical teams involved in your care. Our dedicated health care assistances provide social visits, offer an ear to listen, practical help or simply some much needed distraction or respite. When the time is right for you, our HOS team can help you and your family navigate your way through the challenges and fears of difficult conversations and decision making about your end of life care. We are passionate about supporting positive end of life care and believe how you wish to live the rest of your life is important. If you have a bucket list item you want to tick off, the HOS team can try help with that. Perhaps planning how your end of life is celebrated through funeral plans is important to you, the HOS team can help with that. Wanting to leave some lasting memories for your loved ones, but unsure how to start, the HOS team can help with that. We are here solely for you and what you might need to live as well as possible, to remain at home as long as possible. The HOS team can support you and your family wherever you choose your end of life care to be and, should you choose, provide your end of life care in your own home.
Should you decide to remain at home to die the HOS team will work with your extended clinical team to make this possible. Our HCA and nurses will visit you and your family at home, you and your family will have a key worker that can be contacted should problems or concerns arise. As you come closer to the end of your life our hospice nurses and HCA’s can provide you and your family with out of hours and overnight care and be, where possible, with you until the end.
Why is this care important?
Since the official launch of the Hospice Outreach Service in 2019, we have provided hospice care to hundreds of individuals, their families and loved ones. We have supported patients and families during their final months, weeks and days of life, made final wishes possible, and provided grieving families with vital ongoing bereavement care. Being diagnosed and having to live with a life limiting illness is devastating and finding a way to make life meaningful again can be a challenge. You don’t have to do it alone. Cancer Relief Hospice team are here to help you and your family every step of the way.
We are honoured to be welcomed into family’s homes and lives during these most intimate, often intensely emotional times, and are committed to providing the best care for you that we possibly can. We strive to maintain the highest standards in our work and continue our education to ensure we remain at the forefront of hospice care. Today, therefore, we celebrate the work of our wonderful Hospice Outreach Team, as well as all of our colleagues involved in palliative care throughout the GHA.
We are privileged to share Arturo’s personal experience of HOS care and the difference it has made to his and his family’s life..
If you are interested in learning more about the hospice outreach service provided by Cancer Relief, or any other aspects of our work you can call us on +350 200 42392