When a seriously ill or injured child reaches the stage where doctors and other staff determine that nothing more can be done to save his life, a decision whether to start hospice care needs to be made.
What is palliative and hospice care?
The term “palliative” is used to describe the type of care a terminally ill patient can receive during his remaining time before death. The philosophy is to give the child comforting and compassionate care in order to make their lives as pain-free and symptom -free as possible. The idea is to allow them to live their last days in peace with their loved ones around them. Treatment for a cure of the illness itself is terminated when palliative care begins.
On the other hand, hospice care is a particular kind of palliative care that helps children and their families deal with a terminal illness. It’s a fairly new approach in the United States, but has become an important part of the health care system. All patients in the final stages of life deserve the opportunity to choose to die in a comfortable, peaceful atmosphere. Living a quality life and dying with dignity is important. It is designed to be used if death is expected no more than 6 months in the future and the doctors have determined that there is nothing more they can do to cure the patient.
What does hospice care offer the child?
While in hospice care, a child who is dying needs a special kind of care. Controlling the pain and providing help in dealing with anxiety, anger and fear are extremely important to both the child and the family. The family members and other loved ones may need counseling to deal with the myriad of emotions that confront them. For parents, being in the decision-making process makes them feel more in control.
Professionals from many areas are available to provide information and support to a child in hospice care, and also to the family. They may be medical workers, social workers, psychologists, religious workers, tutors and trained volunteers. They all have a part in supporting the child in hospice.
Children with terminal diseases are often candidates for hospice. It’s difficult for doctors and parents to decide at what point termination of aggressive treatments, which can be very painful, should take place. Lucky Severson, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, said, “Almost 30,000 children in the U.S. die each year from chronic illness, like cancer and heart disease – some in extreme pain, too many alone. Fewer than 10 percent get the end-of-life palliative care treatment that’s available to grownups.” In a hospice situation, family and friends can spend quality time with a child.
Improvements are needed in doctors’ ability to manage pain better. Doctors are trained to bring about cures to disease and tend to keep trying different treatments, despite the pain and suffering of their patients. It’s difficult for the parents to make that decision to have their children go to hospice, while still hoping for a breakthrough in treatment. Others wish they had put their children into hospice care to give them a chance to experience a “good death.”
Lucky Severson,”Palliative and Hospice Care for Dying Children”.org
“End-of-Life Care for Children With Terminal Illness”.org