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Managing Visitors for Hospice Patients

The end of someone’s life is a time of great change and emotions tend to run high. It is important to handle both the hospice patient and the hospice patient visitors with gentleness, respect, and caring.

The goal of hospice care is supporting a patient and family through the end of life in a healthy way. This sounds like a contradiction in terms, but hospice care provides clients with a supportive environment including management of symptoms, family bereavement services, and emotional, physical and spiritual care.

The daily schedule of a hospice patient may include visits from clergy, massage or music therapy,symptom management, and daily nursing care. Hospice patient guests need to be aware of all of these circumstances prior to visiting.

End of life care requires flexibility from staff and from those who wish to visit hospice patient units. As much as possible, hospice patients should be given control of their visits. Depending on patient condition, family may wish to remain close to the patient so that he or she feels loved and is not alone. Patients may also desire this closeness to their loved ones. Many inpatient facilities offer unrestricted access and may even provide sleep chairs and other amenities for families.

For some patients, however, impending death is a very private and reflective time and this also must be respected. Clients on hospice have the right to say who they do and do not wish to see, when, and for how long.

As a client’s condition changes, conversation and other interaction may become difficult or impossible. This does not necessarily mean that visitors should refrain from coming because a patient who is not able to speak is not necessarily unaware and can derive comfort from the presence of a caring visitor.

Pets and children may also be allowed to visit. The soothing presence of a beloved companion pet can be very enjoyable so long as the pet is healthy, clean, and well behaved. Children can also be encouraged to spend time with hospice clients. Grandchildren are often a source of great joy and this does not change when a grandparent enters hospice care.

Given the variability of needs and the level of emotion attendant upon the end of life, it is essential that procedures be put in place to manage visitors for everyone’s well being. Inpatient facilities generally have specific policies and procedures already in place upon admission. Patients and families should be supported in planning for management of visitors and supportive interaction with the extended circle of contacts for a patient.

If we can answer your questions or help provide answers about hospice care, please contact us.

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