What I've Learned From Hospice

by LaBrena Friend, LMSW

Recently, a long-time client of mine passed away after suffering from cancer. As a social worker who works primarily with older adults, I have learned a few things about working with people in their last weeks or months of life.

First, I have learned that while the death of a client can be a difficult emotional experience for me, it can also be rewarding to know I was able to help someone live with as much comfort, dignity and peace as possible at the end of life. I have also learned that one of the most effective things I can do to make the end of life more comfortable for a dying client is to speak with them and their loved ones about hospice.

Hospice is a special category of care that focuses on quality of life for people who are experiencing an advanced, life-limiting illness. Hospice also provides support for the patient’s family members and/or caregivers. Because hospice service is generally covered by Medicare, Medicaid and other insurance, it is accessible to most people who may need it. For a patient to receive hospice care, it must be recommended by a doctor, after curative treatment has ended. Hospice can address a patient’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, as well as daily activities such as administering medications, bathing, and dressing. While hospice does not provide full-time caregivers, it can relieve family members of some of the responsibilities of caregiving.

As difficult as it was for me to say goodbye to my client, it was a comfort to know that I had worked closely with his family and hospice provider to ensure that his suffering was minimized by the care he received through hospice. At some point, we will all face the prospect of a terminal illness, either our own or that of a loved one. At these times, it can be extremely helpful to remember the option of hospice. 

The licensed clinical social workers of CJFS are experts in providing Care Management for older adults and support services for their families. Have questions? Contact Clinical Director, Marcy Morgenbesser, LICSW, marcy@cjfsbham.org or 205.278.7101.