Experience with a Hospice-care Program for the Terminally III

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Abstract

A hospice-care program offers an opportunity to provide effective palliative care for patients terminally ill with malignant disease and to develop improved methods for coping with the problems of the dying patient. All patients for whom anti-tumor therapy does not offer a reasonable possibility of cure are eligible for Church Hospital's multidisciplinary program, the focus of which is on both the patient and his family. Acceptance by medical staff, patients and families has been enthusiastic. Both conventional and unconventional methods can be helpful in making terminally ill patients more comfortable. Much has been learned about the control of pain in such patients. Intestinal obstruction can often be managed non-operatively without the use of nasogastric tube. Other common symptoms such as weakness, anorexia, depression, dyspnea, etc. can be relieved with varying degrees of success. An objective of the program is to allow the patient to be at home for most of his terminal illness and to die there if possible. By utilizing patient and family instruction, visiting nurses and home health aides, approximately two-thirds of the patients in the program at any given time are at home. Basing the program in an acute care hospital has allowed coordination with the curative treatment of malignant disease and effective use of radiation and chemotherapy for palliative purposes. The organizational structure, financing, facilities and clinical experience with 100 consecutive patients of the Church Hospital hospice-care program are described.

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