This month, we honor those who provide palliative and hospice care
November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month
Prior to my double-lung transplant in 2017, I was scared of the words “palliative care.” I mistook it for hospice care and thought it meant preparing to die. I was hypersensitive about that because I was waiting on the organ transplant list. If I had known then what palliative care actually entailed, I would’ve tapped into this beautiful resource much earlier.
People typically access hospice care when no other options for medical intervention exist. It helps keep patients comfortable while they are dying. I’ve witnessed this type of care with my loved ones. I’m in awe that this level of care is so deeply personal, and I appreciate the love and specialized services that are offered to everyone involved.
Palliative care provides a holistic approach to treating the whole person. It seeks to be in tune with one’s mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being rather than just the physical aspect. It helps make hospital stays more comfortable and brings another level of support to people with chronic illness.
Hope and compassion
Leading up to my transplant, I was frequently hospitalized. Rigorous hospital routines are hard. Living within four white walls, chained to an IV pole, and coughing my guts out made it tough to find joy.
Palliative care provided a glimmer of hope. The team was so kind, caring, and compassionate, and radiated warmth. They took the time to get to know me and tailor my care plan to me as a person.
I met with spiritual directors. This was crucial for me, because God is the center of my life. I was able to process the heavy emotions related to being deathly sick, waiting for a double-lung transplant, and other life changes. It was the support I needed and was in line with my beliefs, which was reassuring and encouraging.
Palliative care felt like a warm security blanket. Most of the time, I didn’t even need to contact members of the team — they just showed up in my hospital room. They asked me what I needed, which provided me with a voice in directing my care. They made me feel seen as a person and like I mattered — two rare things in the disabled community, in my experience.
I think these types of resources are underutilized. Educating people in the chronic illness community about the benefits of palliative care would be useful. Imparting joy to patients is an important part of treating the whole self.
These services bring light to dark times in people’s lives. I’m so grateful for those who offer palliative and hospice care and for the human connection that’s built as a result.
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