Hospice care is about caring and comforting those who are in the final stages of life.
For many years, death was something families didn't talk about. However, many experts agree the time to talk about your views about end-of-life care, and to learn about end-of-life options, is before a life-threatening illness occurs.
At the center of hospice care is the belief that everyone has the right to die pain-free and with dignity, and that families need to receive the necessary support to allow that.
The focus is on caring, not curing. Often times, that care is provided in the patient's home.
Nadereh Nasseri, hospice coordinator at Hospice Care in Douglas County, says families shouldn't be ashamed or afraid to talk about dying. She says death is just as natural as birth, and it's an inevitable fact of life for everyone.
Nasseri says volunteers and nurses with Hospice Care visit at least 15 terminally ill patients in Douglas County who have decided to stop aggressive medical treatment.
"Volunteers provide comfort through just their presence and community," Nasseri says. "We provide a community for them, really community is what it's really all about."
Lawrence resident Renee Karr knows the benefits of hospice care.
Karr, a mother of three, has a terminal illness. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor in March and underwent surgery. Doctors gave her two months to two years to live.
That's when she started preparing for her death.
Volunteers assure her that after she dies, they will continue to work with her sons, one of whom lives in Kansas City. They also help her with the little things, such as organizing her daily medications, stopping by to talk or giving a foot massage when she's had a hard day.
Karr couldn't be more grateful for Hospice Care.
"They have made this time a lot easier. You know, you worry about things like, 'Do I have everything done that needs to get done?' and 'How are my kids, how is my family going to feel?' and they really help with that," Karr says.
Hospice Care has greatly reduced the stress in Karr's life and millions of other Americans who are preparing to die.
Karr says, "The comfort comes to me personally as a human being, as a person who is dying but has a right to die as joyfully as I want to."
But that doesn't mean people won't grieve when their friends and loved ones die. Nasseri says, "We work with them so closely and intimately. We get to know them in levels that I think even some of the family members sometimes haven't seen."
She says the loss of their familiar voices, faces and touch is never easy. "But ultimately, I think we know that they are with us. Some pieces are with us forever."
Hospice Care of Douglas County, 200 Maine, suite D, can be reached at 843-3738.