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November marked National Hospice & Palliative Care Month. Peace Hospice & Palliative Care observed the month with its annual Memorial Service. Online, a national hospice and palliative care organization observed the month by posting photos from its hospice team members. Each person featured held a poster that read, “Hospice is _________.” And the person chose a word to fill in the blank.

Among the many words chosen, “Comfort” was the one that most resonated with me, and had I been asked to do the posterboard exercise myself, I think “comfort” would have been the first word I would have used to describe what “Hospice Is …”

In fact, hospice care is often referred to as comfort care. This type of treatment uses a holistic approach, which shifts focus off the disease and places the emphasis on the patients and their families, using an interdisciplinary team approach, with comfort being the overriding goal.

When I think about what kind of care I would want for my own family member – should they be diagnosed with a life-limiting illness – it would be comfort-focused care.

Sometimes it is not until we have experienced things firsthand that we are able to grow in our ability to empathize with others – at least this has proved true for me. As much as I thought I sincerely understood the importance of making our patients comfortable, it was recently hammered home for me in a more intimate way. The folks in my household have had back-to-back acute illnesses – and by no means do I compare them to the seriousness of the afflictions being faced by our hospice patients. Yet while no one wishes to be sick, I am grateful for what was reinforced to me about comfort. While we were suffering with breathing difficulties from bronchitis, nausea from stomach flu, and discomfort in swallowing and eating from thrush, I realized a newfound appreciation for a blessedly healthy body that operates in overwhelming comfort. When comfort is gone, energy is drained. What an appreciated gift it is if your comfort is able to be returned to you: when you can breathe easier, when your nausea subsides, when it’s a bit easier for you to swallow, when you can get some peaceful rest.

That’s why I appreciate the philosophy of hospice and palliative care. Not just the focus on the terminal aspect of the disease but choosing to also focus on the tertiary issues related to diagnosis that can help bring comfort to a patient and to those who care for the patient. If the patient’s plan of care has changed so the patient is resting better, chances are, the caregiver will be resting better as well.

Peace Hospice & Palliative Care. We wish you peace. We also wish you COMFORT.

Hospice is __________. How would you fill in the blank?