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Dealing with a life-limiting illness can be an emotionally and physically draining experience. Whether you need care or are caring for someone else, hospice can help.

Recognizing that it’s difficult for one person to handle every aspect of care, hospice employs a team approach that’s centered on you and your loved ones. When you choose hospice, a number of individuals work to ensure that all needs are met. This team may include the following professionals:

  • A family doctor oversees care by signing off on treatment orders and provides background information and a medical history.
  • A hospice medical director (usually an M.D.) coordinates care along with the family doctor, offers expert advice on pain and symptom control and helps determine which medical treatments may be needed. He or she can also answer any questions about hospice.
  • Registered nurses (R.N.s) regularly visit patients at home or in long-term care facilities. They may offer emergency services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and carefully monitor a patient, making sure pain, disease symptoms and nutrition are being managed. Nurses can also provide support and keep everyone educated about all aspects of care.
  • Registered dietitians can answer any nutrition questions or address feeding problems, either in person or by phone.
  • Health aides or certified nursing assistants help with personal hygiene, such as bathing and dressing, serve meals and offer other services as needed.
  • Social workers offer emotional support, provide counseling and bereavement follow-up and help with financial matters. They can also help families receive aid from community agencies.
  • A chaplain addresses the spiritual and religious needs of patients and their loved ones and assists with funeral planning.
  • Bereavement counselors help patients and families find support groups, cope with grief and prepare emotionally for the eventual death of a loved one.
  • Volunteers provide much-needed support, giving caregivers a break by sitting with patients, helping families find community resources or simply lending a sympathetic ear.

You and your family are important members of the team. Speaking up about the kind of care you or your loved one wants ensures a comprehensive program that suits everyone’s needs.