Hospice care has been around since the 11th century, but its modern conception didn’t take shape until 1967. It was during the interim that the concept of hospice evolved and expanded dramatically, often facing resistance and skepticism in the process.
In its early days, hospice typically referred to a place of hospitality for the ill, wounded, and dying, as well as travelers and pilgrims. Dame Cicely Saunders, below, is credited with developing the modern principles of hospice care throughout the 1950s.
Born in 1918, Saunders was a British nurse who experienced chronic health problems herself. This, combined with a special bond she developed with a dying Polish refugee, inspired her to become a hospice activist and eventually the mother of modern hospice care. The man, 40-year-old David Tasma, left her £500 in his will to follow her passion. Saunders’ philosophy was based on managing the “total pain” of the patient, meaning psychological, spiritual, and physical needs. She also introduced the idea of taking into account the needs of the patient’s family.
Saunders refined her philosophy throughout the 1950s while volunteering at a hospice facility and attending medical school. In 1967, she established St. Christopher’s Hospice in south London, the first model of modern hospice care.
Saunders, as well as leaders who came before and after her, faced resistance from a number of directions. Cultural taboos surrounding the open discussion of death and terminal illness were strong; fellow doctors felt uncomfortable implementing new, unfamiliar medical techniques; and many patients and their families found it hard to accept the transition from seeking cures to seeking comfort.
Nonetheless, Saunders’ approach saw great success. It was adopted in care facilities all over the world, from the U.S. to Zimbabwe to Switzerland. She paved the way for the 1982 creation of the Medicare Hospice Benefit, which was solidified in 1993 when President Bill Clinton declared hospice a guaranteed and essential component of health care.
Biblical traditions align with many of Saunders’ principles. In John’s Gospel, Jesus illustrates the connection between the spiritual and the physical. In his day, sickness was regarded as a manifestation of spiritual ailment. Jesus believed that by resolving one’s sins and leading a virtuous life, sickness could be healed. Today, with massive advancements in medicine and technology, it’s widely understood that sin doesn’t “cause” illness; but the principle of mind-body connection that Jesus spoke of has proven to be very real. That’s why at HealthKeeperz, we focus our hospice services on managing every aspect of a patient’s physical and spiritual needs.
In addition, the timeless story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) has long served as an example for Christians to follow in caring for the poor, sick, and suffering.
“Now which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” The answer came, "He who treated him with compassion."
Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same."
HealthKeeperz’ hospice care practices are rooted in both the wisdom of Cicely Saunders and the teachings of Christ. We invite you to read more about what kind of care we provide here. And if you’re currently seeking relief for a terminally ill loved one, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 800-309-3784. It’s not an easy conversation to have, but in the long run it will bring enormous comfort to you and your family.