These days when we say ‘hospice’ we mean hospice care as an end-of-life care. Hospice services provide palliative care to chronically ill, terminally ill or seriously ill old people.
The purpose of this compassionate palliative care is mainly to ease their pain, to make the patients as comfortable as possible under the circumstances, to attend to their physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
Historians believe that the origin of the hospice care is in the 11th century; but this is ancient history.
In the history of the hospice movement we can mention, among many others, some compassionate women who helped directly in the developing of those services with the intention to honor and respect the dying person.
The University of Glasgow tells about 4 of these women, who lived in the 19th century
- Jeanne Garnier – a frenchwoman who founded in 1842 in France the first home for the dying.
- Mary Aikenhead, an Irish sister who promoted all her life the idea of hospice but only after her death in 1879 the convent where she spent her final years became Our Lady’s Hospice for the dying.
- Frances Davison founded the first home for the dying in England in 1885.
- Rose Hawthorne devoted her life to the care of people with cancer and in 1896 she opened an hospice style=”font-weight: 400;”> in the Lower East side in New York for the free care of people who suffered from incurable cancer.
- Cicely Saunders lived in England in the 20th Century until the beginning of the 21th century (she died in 2005), and was one of the most influential people in the development of hospice services in establishing St Christopher Hospice in 1967, which became the world’s first purpose-built hospice. The hospice was founded on the principles of combining treating the dying, teaching and clinical research. Cicely Saunders’ work is considered the basis of modern hospice philosophy.
- Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist, was a pioneer in near-death studies. In 1977 she persuaded her husband to buy forty acres of land in Escondido, California, near San Diego, where she founded “Shanti Nilaya” (Home of Peace). She intended it as a healing center for the dying and their families.
Those compassionate women helped pushing the development of hospice care around the world. In Israel we can find hospice services like the Hospice of the Upper Galilee, was named after another compassionate woman – Nancy Caroline.
Professor Nancy Caroline founded the hospice of the Upper Galilee it in 1995, after being the chief medical officer of Magen David Adom, and managing the Flying Doctors in East Africa, to provide palliative care to the Golan and the Upper Galilee population.