HospiceWits’ palliative care: here is what our doctors, home care nurses and patient’s families have to say

Patients who receive a terminal diagnosis are often taken aback when hospice care is suggested as a part of the holistic approach to the patient’s wellbeing. The negative associations that the word “hospice” carries stem from a range of misconceptions about what this type of care really entails, and especially the impression that receiving hospice care implies that the patient and their family have given up all hope.

HospiceWits abides by the principals of hospice care, and the palliative care provided by HospiceWits can be summarised as:

– Offering a support system that helps patients live as actively as possible until death.
– Affirming life and regarding dying as a normal process,
– Intending to neither hasten nor postpone death,

Ideally, palliative care should be a part of the treatment plan for patients with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions from the time of diagnosis, in conjunction with any treatment intended to prolong life.

This is not the case for many patients, as curative active aggressive intent with regards to treatment often takes preference over an approach that makes palliative care a part of the treatment plan from the very beginning, and not only when patients are in the last part of their lives.

What does the care provided by HospiceWits entail?

HospiceWits aims to help patients who are facing health challenges to manage and live life to the fullest, free of pain and anxiety, while supporting their families and loved ones. We respect the dignity of patients and their families, and provide support and guidance through an interdisciplinary and holistic approach to the provision of palliative care.

When patients register to receive palliative care from HospiceWits, a trained home care sister visits them in their homes or at the hospital to do a comprehensive assessment of their condition, based on the referral from the doctor who is treating them.

While hospice physicians and home care nurses work with the doctors and specialists treating a patient, the intention is not to replace them, but rather to provide additional support to the patient and their family, also with regards to their psychosocial wellbeing. This is provided by trained members of the HospiceWits psychosocial support team, consisting of counsellors, spiritual counsellors and social workers.

A home care sister’s account

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of patients and nursing sisters.

“We’re now on our way to visit a new, elderly patient, Mrs Patel*. Her family is very concerned about her – she’s bedridden and has several health and joint problems, including severe rheumatoid arthritis. A domestic worker takes care of the 84-year-old, but one of her daughters lives close by and spends a large part of every day with her.

“Sister Ingrid* takes a careful and detailed history, after which she addresses the patient, speaking slowly and clearly to the hard-of-hearing little lady tucked up in bed. After first checking her vital signs and then her back for bedsores, Sister recommends they employ an experienced day nurse to assist in turning the patient more frequently, and to give the family some respite from the physically demanding aspect of caring for their mother.

“Mrs Patel has seven children, and they will share the cost of employing a nurse. A phone call is made, and Sister tells the family the nurse will arrive at 08:00 the following day. Sister Ingrid also suspects the lady has had a few small minor strokes, and tells the family she will arrange for the HospiceWits doctor to do a home visit. One of her sons arrives before we leave, and the siblings seem so grateful and relieved that HospiceWits will visit frequently and advise on the best treatment for their much-loved mother.”

What patients’ families say

“You welcomed our father and family into your fold. We were treated with respect and a quiet dignity. There really are angels amongst us, we salute and applaud you. ”

“To the wonderful staff at HospiceWits, thank you for treating my mother so gently and with dignity, as a person rather than just a patient. Dr Craig’s time with us as a family to explain everything was invaluable, and helped us to feel at peace, knowing she was getting the best possible care and was not going to be in pain. We had not had such care from any doctor in the week prior, and I can only be thankful that Mom’s final care was so good. We felt so supported and welcomed by the entire team.”

“The assistance that HospiceWits rendered, both at Dad’s home and in your In-Patient Unit, was absolutely exceptional. I cannot thank you enough for all your support, care and kindness. Your staff was magnificent.”

“We would like to express our thanks and gratitude for all the love, care and support that you gave to her. The magnitude of gratitude that we feel cannot be explained. You gave her the quality of life with the dignity and independence that she was determined to have. You gave her children the ability to have the very best of their mother for as long as possible. We all feel truly blessed that you were chosen to travel this journey with us, and we know just how much that meant to her – she truly loved you. Thank you, Dr Craig, for your attendance, endless support and forever availability to care for her and help make her as comfortable and pain-free as possible.”