There’s an organization committed to enhancing quality of life for people and their families that serves as a standard we can use to care for each other better. It’s called hospice. Although hospice cares for end-of-life patients and their families, there is much we can learn from hospice about how to care for each other during our entire lives, both personally and professionally.

November is designated as National Hospice and Palliative Care Month to bring awareness to the options people have when they or someone they love is facing the need for end-of-life care. The goal of Hospice and Palliative Care is to help the terminally ill live each moment of life to the fullest.  I learned about hospice when my mother was dying, and the care she and my family received changed our lives

Respecting the Individual. Hospice supports the idea that each person has the right to die with dignity, without pain. Rather than medical interventions, the focus is on providing comfort to the individual, attending only to their needs and wishes. They make every effort to make the patient comfortable and happy in their last days.

Supporting the Family. Hospice supports not just the patient but the entire family. They provide personal comfort and kindness at a difficult time, and lend much-needed emotional support. That support to families, including grief and bereavement counseling, continues for the family long after the loved one has passed.

Close to Home. There’s no place like home, but in speaking with patients and their families, I’ve learned the importance of the feeling of home. The closer the care center is to home, the happier and more peaceful the patient and the family are. Hospice centers are designed to be more home-like, with no machines and monitors hooked up to the patient.

Practicing Compassion. The people who work for and volunteer at hospice understand not just the facts but the emotions of what is and what’s coming, and that’s in large part how they are able to provide the level of care and comfort that they do. Many hospice volunteers are people who have been through hospice with their own loved one, so they are empathetic and understanding about what loved ones need, and the range of emotions people feel when experiencing a loss.

The care received from everyone who is a part of hospice, from medical staff and care volunteers to spiritual guides and bereavement counselors brought both physical and spiritual comfort to my mother and to those who love her. Hospice is a model for quality, compassionate care. While they focus on caring for people with life-limiting illness their team-oriented, holistic approach that is customized to meet each individual’s needs is an approach we can all incorporate personally and professionally into our lives.

“Spending moments with another in earnest presence is one of the simple ways we can show unconditional love.” ― Molly Friedenfeld