Unlike palliative care, hospice is not intended to “cure” a patient’s illness. When a person begins hospice, it is with the understanding that their illness is terminal—they are not going to “recover.” However, one of the fundamental goals of hospice is to keep the patient as comfortable as possible during their final stretch of life. And to achieve this, caregivers often strive to relieve any pain or discomfort that the patient may be feeling as a result of his or her condition. Symptoms commonly seen during end-of-life care include:
- Fluid buildup in the respiratory tract
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty breathing
- Muscle spasms
- Opportunistic infections
Generally speaking, these symptoms can be combatted with medication. Even if the patient is unable to swallow pills or capsules, the medicine can be injected subcutaneously or administered through a catheter. Treatment for the symptoms may not fully “stop” a patient’s discomfort, but it can usually offer them some form of relief.
When a patient begins to show signs of distress, a hospice doctor will decide upon the proper course of treatment, and a professional caregiver will see to it that the treatment plan (which may include new or different medicine) is followed correctly. A caregiver will also be able to reassure you that you’re doing everything possible to help your loved one “feel better”.