[custom_frame_center shadow=”on”]hospice-caregiver[/custom_frame_center] Modern society is hooked on the myth of perpetual youth and health. Certainly, most of us secretly hope that we will never need to see the inside of a hospice. We investigated the purpose of hospices, the services they offer and the compassion of the caregivers.

What is a hospice?

Being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease or chronic degenerative illness is frightening for both the patient and their family. Once the initial shock of the diagnosis has passed, medical treatment is prescribed, if appropriate. But there may come a time when the patient and family are informed that further treatment is unavailable, and that palliative care (specialised medical care for people with serious illnesses, whatever the prognosis) is required. And that’s when the dreaded word ‘hospice’ enters the picture. According to St Luke’s Hospice, ‘There’s an unfortunate social misconception that “hospice” only means ‘”death”. And the natural human instinct is to avoid that connection and possibility.’
The reality is that hospice care, whether at home, in hospital or at a hospice facility, is about life – about living well until the time comes when death may have to be confronted. Hospices are designed to feel more like a home than hospitals do. They can provide individual care more suited to the person, in a gentler and calmer atmosphere than in a hospital, with a team of doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists, counsellors and trained volunteers on hand.
Hospices provide humankind with a service beyond price or vanity – giving patients with life-threatening illnesses quality in life, dignity in death and constant kindly support for them and their families.

What does palliative care involve?

The objective of palliative care is holistic: to keep patients free from all distressing symptoms such as pain so that they have quality of life and can live as actively as possible; and to provide psychological, social and spiritual support for both the patients and their family or carers. Palliative care does not postpone or hasten death, which comes to us all. It does, however, smooth the road ahead and help the patient’s loved ones in every way necessary.

Hospice carers: behind the smiles

We salute the people who work so tirelessly as hospice caregivers. They have chosen a career that couldn’t be further removed from the arenas of banking, law and commerce. They are certainly not ‘in it for the money’. These special people work with compassion and encouragement in an environment that is a constant reminder of our own mortality. Their qualities include what caregiver Molly Rhea describes as ‘emotional fortitude and unwavering dedication’ and the ability to ‘make positive experiences arise from a most unlikely source, death’. So here’s to the people, both staff and volunteers, who pour so much of themselves into caring for hospice patients and their families.
You’ll find more information about palliative care and hospices in your area by contacting The Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa at +27(0)21 531 0277 or go to www.hpca.co.za/frontpage/hospice-directory.html


Acknowledgements & Photo credits

Article compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer.


  1. Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa. www.hpca.co.za/
  2. Rhea, M. A salute to hospice workers. Heppner Gazette Times. 2007, Nov.