Holding Onto Hope
By Mary Knecht, Social Services Team Leader
“If you knew that hope and despair were paths to the same destination, which would you choose?” — Robert Brault, musician and writer
Many believe that choosing hospice care means giving up hope. However, even though a patient’s curative treatments are discontinued in favor of palliative care, hope still has an important role. Whether wishing for a miracle recovery, an extended life beyond a doctor’s prognosis or simply relatively pain-free final days, hope can make a stressful time that much more bearable.
Hospice by the Bay’s caregiving teams encourage patients and families to hope for the patient’s comfort and quality of life for every moment of life. And it’s true — some patients get better because of hospice’s specialized care and live longer than expected, or leave our care because their prognosis improves and their doctor believes they have more time.
Other times, though, the patient’s illness progresses. As family member or friend, how can you respond when the patient or spouse expresses wishes for recovery or an extended life?
First, it’s important not to offer false hope. Avoid responding in a way that treats hope as fact, as in, “I know he’ll get better.”
Second, allow them to express what hope without judgment. Hope may be their way of coping with a terminal diagnosis. Hope can help us keep going, looking forward to the future. It can make us feel more at ease in our hearts and minds during difficult times.
When someone expresses hope, listen with care and respond in a neutral way, “I hope you get a miracle,” “I hope you’re right that the doctor’s prognosis is wrong” or simply, “I hope you are right.”
As a patient’s physical condition declines, hope might wane. It’s the job of Hospice by the Bay’s clinical staff to gently educate the patient or family about how these changes may reflect the advancement of the disease. As a friend or loved one, you can just focus on being supportive. Because, the reality is, there is always hope.