Eileen Comstock

Dr. Eileen Comstock

As we approach the holiday season, it is a time when many of us honor traditions and celebrate with friends and families. It is also a time to remember the people we have lost this year and support the people in our community who are feeling the tremendous weight of those losses.

That is why Socorro General Hospital Home Health and Hospice invites the community to join us to celebrate the lives and memories of those we have lost at our memorial service on December 4 at the Best Western Convention Center on 1100 N. California Street in Socorro. A reception begins at 5 p.m., followed by a ceremony from 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served.

This is also an important time of year to remind our community about the value of hospice. Hospice is medical care that is designed to help someone with a terminal illness live well even as they near the end of life. This type of care focuses on caring for and improving quality of life for people at the end of their lives.

Doctors, social workers and especially nurses began working toward our modern concept of hospice care more than 60 years ago, emphasizing the importance of caring for the whole person, not just treating a disease. Hospice combines expert pain and symptom relief with holistic care to meet the physical, social, psychological and spiritual needs of its patients and those of their family and friends.

The Hippocratic oath asks doctors to honor life and provide comfort to their patients. This is what hospice is all about. In short, hospice exists because we all matter, and we matter to the last moment of our lives and beyond.

As an emergency physician at Socorro General Hospital and in my own life, I have seen firsthand the incredible value of hospice in our community.

Patients with a terminal illness who receive hospice care live longer than patients receiving standard medical care. Those in hospice care also experience fewer unnecessary ER visits and hospitalizations. When we feel better, there is less panic about the daily needs of care, and less likelihood of rushing to the hospital.

Hospice care can be provided in hospitals, in long term care facilities, in dedicated hospice facilities or at home. Socorro General Hospital Home Health and Hospice staff provide information, medication, medical supplies, physical assistance, emotional and spiritual support.

Hospice helps patients and their families to face each day, prepare for priority needs and get closure when it’s time.

Learning what to expect can take away some of the fear families may have about seeing someone die. Knowing that comfort is bring provided physically also gives a measure of spiritual and emotional comfort.

In addition, adequate pain control works wonders towards easing anxiety, fear and depression.

We also know that grief is natural, and in hospice care, we don’t try to deny it. Healing from grief is slow, and support is available for families throughout the grieving process.

In “Final Gift,” a beautiful book written by two hospice nurses, the authors share intimate experiences working with patients at the end of their lives. We learn that, as heart-wrenching as it may be to grapple with terminal illness, the opportunity for closure that hospice helps to provide is truly a gift.

I want to thank all of our hospice volunteers, staff and clinicians for offering this gift to our community, and to the many families who join us on this important journey.

Eileen Comstock is an MD with Socorro General Hospital in Socorro, New Mexico.