October 10, 2015 was World Hospice and Palliative Care Day celebrating and supporting hospice and palliative care delivered all around the world. Understanding the different cultural perspectives on death and dying can give hospice care providers valuable insight into their patients’ attitudes, experience and family dynamics surrounding end-of-life care. Knowing how other countries around the world perceive hospice care can help caregivers in the United States better care for and anticipate the needs of their diverse populations.
Buddhism is very common in Asian culture, so it may be important to know that patients who practice Buddhism may refuse pain medication because of their desire to keep their minds as alert as possible at the time of death. These patients may require time for reflection, meditation, chanting or prayer to promote a state of peace and calm.
In Saudi Arabia, the terminally ill are cared for in the home, with support provided by the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre. In the US, hospice staff who care for Middle Eastern families should be aware of the close connections between family and friends. The patient’s tightknit group is expected to provide around the clock care and support, as well as forceful advocacy.
Small living quarters make it difficult to care for the dying at home in Russia, so inpatient hospice programs are normal. The first hospice opened in Russia in 1990. In Poland, it is traditional for the dying to stay at home, surrounded by family and friends up until the time of death.
Hospice care in Germany is not widespread, but there is end-of-life care offered in inpatient programs, with a variety of services dedicated to the physical, psychological, social and spiritual aspects of care for terminal patients, including alternative therapies.
One hospice inpatient facility in China has a nursing assistant’s bed in the room with the patient so they can attend to the patient’s needs around the clock. The program survives on charitable contributions and assistance from relatives who travel to China in order to help provide care for their loved ones.
Hospice programs around the world differ widely depending on the level of support they receive from family, professionals, volunteers or government programs. World Hospice and Palliative Care Day is a good time to reflect on global perspectives on end-of-life care and to celebrate the hardworking professionals in the field, wherever they may be.
Sources: What Nurses Need To Know About Buddhist Perspectives Of End-Of-Life Care And Dying; Healthcare for Middle Eastern Patients & Families; Cultural Barriers to Hospice Care; Hospice Around the World. Encyclopedia of Death & Dying