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The Modern Hospice Movement: History & Effects

The Modern Hospice Movement: History & Effects
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  • 0:02 Hospice
  • 1:46 Modern Hospice Movement
  • 3:47 Palliative Care
  • 5:15 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

The end of life can be a difficult time for people. In this lesson, we'll examine the modern hospice movement, including the holistic approach to dying, the history of the modern hospice movement, and palliative care.

Hospice

Sita is dying. She has cancer, and there's not a lot left that doctors can do. They've told her that she only has a few months to live, and Sita is dealing with that news by reaching out to family and friends and making sure that her last few months are filled with life and love.

But Sita is also in a lot of pain. Even though the doctors can't do anything to solve the problem of cancer, they can help Sita manage her pain. Sita, with her medical and pain problems, needs constant medical attention. She can't take care of herself, but she doesn't want to die in a hospital. What can she do?

Hospice care focuses on the total care of terminally ill patients. Many doctors and hospitals focus on medical care of patients, but hospice care gives equal attention to physical, psychological, and spiritual care for patients like Sita, who are dying.

Like Sita, many people who are dying do not want to be in a clinical, sterile, and impersonal hospital. They'd prefer to be at home or in a place that is more like home.

Hospice care focuses on giving the patient a comfortable end of life, whether that involves hospice care in the patient's home or in a hospice facility, which is a medical facility that offers hospice care in a less sterile environment than a hospital. Many hospice facilities look more like homes than hospitals, but they provide all the medical help that patients need.

Let's look closer at the modern hospice movement, and the influence of hospice care on palliative care.

Modern Hospice Movement

So Sita has cancer and only a few months to live. She's decided to seek hospice care instead of staying in the hospital.

The fact that Sita has that choice at all is thanks in large part to Dame Cicely Saunders. Though the idea of hospice care has been around for centuries, Saunders brought it to the modern medical community. In the middle of the 20th century, Saunders worked with terminally ill patients. She noticed that the health care system didn't meet all of their needs. Instead, the patients were treated in a cold, sterile environment that looked only at how to cure them of their disease. If a cure couldn't be found, they were often simply left to die.

Saunders didn't like that. She believed that much could be done for these patients. She wanted them to be in an environment that was warmer and gave them a spiritual and psychological boost, even if they couldn't be cured physically. So Saunders started the first modern hospice facility in her native England. She also gave lectures across the United States, which sparked the hospice movement here, as well.

Around the same time that Saunders was lecturing on the importance of the hospice movement, American psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published the book On Death and Dying, which talked about the stages that terminally ill patients go through. In her book, Kubler-Ross encouraged a more holistic approach to treating dying patients by meeting their psychological needs as well as physical ones.

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