Archive: April 22, 2022

‘Rest house for travellers’: What does hospice care entail?

The word “hospice” has its roots in the Latin hospitium, which refers to hospitality, “a place of lodging” or a “guest house”. Whilst it’s easy to see the connections with caring in the etymology of the word, many people still aren’t sure what exactly hospice care entails.

To make things a little clearer, here is what hospice care offers to patients and their families.

Holistic care for patients with life-limiting illness

Taking an interdisciplinary approach, hospice care, also referred to as palliative care, offers holistic care to patients with life-limiting illness, and to their families.

Employing a range of healthcare practitioners, hospice care is given either at a palliative care facility, like HospiceWits’ in-patient unit, or at the patient’s home through the services of the homecare nurses.  

The interdisciplinary team providing care to the patient and their family consists of physicians, nurses, nursing assistants, psychologists and counsellors, and therapists. Medical professionals tend to the needs of the patient with regards to their illness, whilst mental health professionals assist the patient with their psychological needs, and also offer counselling to the patient’s family throughout the patient’s illness, and bereavement counselling when the patient has passed away.

This multi-pronged approach makes hospice care an excellent option for patients who are diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, walking the full journey with the patient until the final stages of their lives. Palliation addresses the patient’s holistic needs, while also making sure that their family is prepared for whatever the future may hold.

The care offered by the HospiceWits interdisciplinary team primarily includes, but is not limited to:

– Pain management and symptom control by trained doctors and nurses.

– Counselling and support to patients and their families by psychologists, social workers and counsellors.

– Grief, loss and bereavement counselling.

The palliative care services offered by hospices are highly regarded by the myriads of people who have received hospice care themselves, or have seen the value of hospice care for their families.

If we think of ourselves as travellers through life, the origins of the word “hospice” ring particularly true. When receiving hospice care, patients are given a nurturing and caring space in their lives to take rest and live the balance of their lives to the full, pain-free and with dignity.

HospiceWits is proud to be a provider of palliative care services to patients in Johannesburg and Soweto. If you need more information about the services we offer, feel free to contact HospiceWits here, and to follow our Facebook page for regular updates.

More about Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the hospice movement

When thinking about how much palliative care has become a part of our lives, it’s difficult to imagine that it has only existed in its current form for 55 years. The remarkable woman who started the very first formal hospice care facility was Dame Cicely Saunders. She established St Christopher’s Hospice in South London, being moved to do so after having lost two people dear to her heart to terminal disease.

Dame Saunders is widely considered the founder of the modern hospice movement, and did groundbreaking work in the field of palliative care.

Nurse, social worker and physician

Dame Saunders initially studied to be a nurse, completing her nursing training at the Nightingale School of Nursing. Little would Dame Cicely Saunders know that she, too, would be amongst the most well known female medical professionals in history. After a back injury, Saunders completed a degree in social work in 1945, and realised at the age of 33 that if she really wanted to change the concept of pain management, she would have to become a qualified doctor. This combination of skills would prove invaluable later.

The life of Dame Saunders was changed by one of her dying patients, a Polish-Jewish refugee who had a life-threatening cancer. He talked about death and the care of the dying, telling her what he and people like him needed. It was this experience that planted the seed of offering holistic care that addresses the complete needs of the patient.

After losing a second partner, Antoni Michniewicz, while researching pain control, and also losing her father shortly after that, Saunders fell into what she referred to as “pathological grieving” – although Michniewicz’s death taught her that “as the body becomes weaker, so the spirit becomes stronger”.

Dame Cicely Saunders was the first person to introduce the term “total pain” into the medical vocabulary. It refers to the physical, emotional, social and spiritual distress a patient may experience, and forms the bedrock of what hospice care caters for.

St Christopher’s Hospice opened its doors in 1967, and was the first of hundreds of thousands of similar palliative care providers established to offer holistic care to patients around the world.

Dame Cicely Saunders died of breast cancer at St Christopher’s Hospice in 2005, after devoting her life to the development of holistic care to those with life-limiting illnesses, and significantly contributing to the field of medical ethics. The principles laid down by Saunders are still the principles according to which hospice care is provided today, and this trailblazer’s legacy is immeasurable.

HospiceWits is proud to offer palliative care services to patients in and around Johannesburg. To learn more about our hospice care, click here.