Hospice Interpreters – The Benefits of Having an Interpreter for End-of-Life Situations
Overall, approximately 67.3 million United States residents do not speak English at home. Among those who speak other languages at home, 15 percent do not speak English well, and 7 percent don’t speak English at all. There are a few good reasons why utilizing interpreters in certain circumstances are critical.
While the inability to speak English well may not have an impact on the daily lives of everyone if a person is in hospice care, less than fluent English can lead to challenges. Medical information is often highly complex, making it difficult to understand for even people who are well-versed in English. Couple that with the stress of discussing end-of-life scenarios and the consequences of misunderstandings can be severe.
Thankfully, there is a way to overcome language barriers. By using a hospice interpreter, patients, family members, and medical staff all stand to gain. If you are wondering how having an interpreter for end-of-life situations is beneficial, here’s what you need to know.
The Benefits of Having an Interpreter for End-of-Life Situations
How Hospice Interpreters Benefit Patients
As mentioned above, medical information is often highly complex. During discussions with a physician, it’s not uncommon to encounter medical terminology that you may not come across anywhere else. Even with a reasonable degree of fluency, following the conversation can be difficult. But, if you possess limited English proficiency, it may be even harder.
Plus, end-of-life care decisions come with extra weight. For patients, they may just be learning that their condition is incurable and that they have limited time left. If they do understand that, the emotional burden can make it hard to focus, something that can be particularly troublesome if you are also having to translate what’s being shared in your mind. However, limited English proficiency could mean they misunderstand the severity of their condition, creating a challenging scenario for all involved.
Luckily, many of those challenges can be avoided with a trained hospice interpreter. Not only can they speak to the patient in their preferred language, reducing the odds of misunderstandings, but they can also ensure that the medical professional’s tone is conveyed. Plus, they can make sure that any questions a patient may have are relayed and answered, giving the patient more peace of mind about the exchange. In turn, this can make navigating upcoming decisions easier for the patient, as they are fully aware of the situation and their options.
How Hospice Interpreters Benefit Family Members
Just as a patient with limited English proficiency can have trouble understanding what is being shared by a medical professional during end-of-life care, so can family members. Since family members can be tasked with making certain decisions, particularly if the patient isn’t capable of doing so personally, language barriers can make a challenging situation even harder.
After all, learning that a family member is terminal and then deciding on a care plan that focuses on comfort instead of a cure is difficult enough. Add to that the strain of not fully understanding what a medical professional is saying, and making sound choices is significantly more difficult.
Just as a hospice interpreter can assist patients, having a trained interpreter available for family members makes a difference. It makes it easier for everyone to communicate, ensuring a complete understanding as decisions are being made.
Additionally, even if the family members speak fluent English, that doesn’t mean having an interpreter for the patient doesn’t benefit them. It removes the burden of having to relay information that can be incredibly hard to hear, let alone share with a family member who is reaching the end of their life.
How Hospice Interpreters Benefit Medical Professionals
While many people would assume that hospice interpreters mainly benefit patients and family members, their presence is also valuable to medical professionals. By having someone available who can share details with a patient or family member in their preferred language, they can rest assured knowing that a language barrier isn’t harming communication on a great level.
Additionally, an interpreter can often help medical professionals navigate various cultural differences. Many cultures view and approach death differently, and that can lead to confusion for those who aren’t familiar with those cultural norms. An interpreter who is well-versed in both the patient’s language and cultural background can help the medical team understand the patient’s perspective, ensuring that their beliefs are respected.
Finally, working with a trained hospice interpreter means medical professionals don’t have to rely on family members to speak with the patient. Since a family member may be (understandably) inclined to protect the patient from bad news, there’s a chance that they won’t convey the details accurately. While it comes from a good place, it can lead to misunderstandings, as it is possible the patient isn’t fully aware of the situation as it stands. By working with an interpreter, instead, medical professionals can ensure that what they say is relayed accurately.
How to Get an Interpreter for Hospice Patients
If you require a hospice interpreter, your first step should be to speak with the hospice facility about the need. Many healthcare systems have interpreters available, so a simple request may be enough to secure the services of one.
However, access to hospice interpreters through the facility isn’t universal. While institutions that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding are required by law to provide “adequate language assistance” to those with limited English proficiency, if the facility doesn’t accept that funding, the rules governing what has to be supplied can vary. Additionally, what constitutes “adequate” assistance in a facility’s eyes may not align with your needs or expectations.
If you need a reliable hospice interpreter, securing one on your own is an option. Acutrans provides medical interpretation services and certified, notarized translations within 24 hours. If you need an interpreter for end-of-life care situations, the Acutrans team can offer a fast, reliable, and professional solution. Contact us for a free quote today.