California has a rising need for hospice services — and the agencies that provide those services — due partly to an aging population.
The state’s hospice initiative, Let’s Get Healthy California, lays out the state’s need to improve and increase hospice care, ensuring that California residents receive a higher quality of life in their golden years.
One of the agencies championing the program and exceeding its expectations is Good Heart Hospice, an agency focused on end-of-life dignity, improved mental health, empathy, and education on all of these subjects. They accomplish many of their goals with the help of compassionate and well-trained chaplains alongside a host of nurses, administrators, and more.
The state program focuses on increasing awareness of hospice care and elevating the services offered. In the first batch of data — reported in 2010 — the state organization found that 39% of state residents with terminal illnesses used hospice services. By 2014, the data showed that the figure had increased to 43.3%. By the end of this year, Good Heart Hospice hopes to increase that number even further to 54%.
Issues Facing Hospice Agencies
Throughout the state, hospice staff and chaplains face increased workloads but lack the resources, time, and training to provide the best care to the state’s terminal patients. Not only does this lead to less time with each patient, but the staff is facing burnout that can affect them physically and spiritually.
Another variant of these issues is a phenomenon called compassion fatigue, where professionals who work in empathy-forward fields hear so many sad stories that they can no longer process and respond appropriately.
Need for More Professionals
For several reasons, from the emotional strain of caring for people at the end of life to poor compensation, the industry does not draw as many people as it could.
A large percentage of workers that enter the field leave it within a few years due to how difficult it is. Very few people — from chaplains to nurses — last a decade in the hospice business. Thankfully, Good Heart Hospice boasts a higher retention rate by design.
“Because we are driven as much by employees as clients, we are always looking at ways to reduce the strain on our staff and increase their work satisfaction,” said (Maya) Thona, co-founder of Good Heart Hospice. “From increased days off to better pay and token of appreciation throughout the year, we try to make them feel appreciated..
A related issue is that fewer young people are entering the field of hospice care. In 2019, the average hospice chaplain was 51 years old, and as they retire, young caregivers need to step in to take their places.
Compensation and Compassion
For the sort of work they do, which is mentally and emotionally draining, chaplains in the hospice industry can be woefully underpaid. After compassion fatigue and the regular retirement process, the third reason for staff leaving the profession is the often low pay.
“Consider the kind of care being provided by hospice nurses and chaplains,” said xx, “there is physical care, emotional and spiritual support, mental health services, and trying to provide it all with the utmost dignity to those in their final days. And to think that they are often so poorly paid, it’s heartbreaking.”
Over the years, the pay in the field has often not even kept up with inflation. Hospices have smaller budgets, and one of the first things to go is pay raises for the staff. Many independent hospices have also been purchased by healthcare conglomerates, meaning that those on the ground, who know how hard the staff works, have little say over whether or not they get the raises they deserve.
Hopefully, the new California initiative will help correct some of these issues.
Though the hospice care field in California is facing a host of dire issues, the founders and staff of Good Heart Hospice are committed to providing the very best care to the state’s residents that need it most.
About Good Heart Hospice & Palliative Care
Good Heart Hospice & Palliative Care is dedicated to providing you with dignified care that promotes quality of life, comfort, and convenience. We respect your personal healthcare and treatment decisions and strive to support you and your family. Good Heart Hospice focuses on maximizing comfort, reducing suffering, and allowing individuals to maintain their dignity. For more information, please visit https://goodhearthospice.com/
Erik Jackson has been a senior editor at Health News Tribune for three years. Fluent in French and proficient in Spanish and Arabic, he focuses on diseases and conditions and the newest trends in medicine.