Too many die without ever being offered the tangible end-of-life support that hospice care provides
In 2003 the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and supporters designated the month of November as National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, providing an opportunity to learn about end-of-life care choices. Unfortunately, too many families are denied the benefit of hospice care, or wait too long to accept the many supports the hospice team provides. Too many patients accept hospice only in their final days or even hours of life, leaving families wishing they had known about hospice care sooner. Many patients die without ever being offered the tangible end-of-life support that hospice care provides. They may instead struggle with untreated pain and with the side-effects of by-now futile curative medical treatments. They suffer all this, in addition to watching their families struggle to cope with the escalating demands of care.
Considered to be the gold standard for high-quality, compassionate care for people with a life-limiting illness, hospice care is too often overlooked when considering care options. And, contrary to popular belief, choosing hospice does not mean giving up. It does not mean losing hope, or that death will come faster. With hospice there is hope for comfort when a cure is no longer feasible; hope that a secure, familiar care setting can be enjoyed; hope for personal dignity and freedom from unwanted procedures. Additionally, hospice gives hope that the family will be nurtured and supported, even after the death of their loved one. Several studies, including one in 2007 by Duke University revealed that people with a terminal illness who choose hospice care live longer and with better quality than those who do not. Does quality of life effect desire to live? You decide.
At Niagara Hospice we treat the person, not the disease, because we believe the overall quality of life at the end of life is most important. That care is extended to family members who are also struggling - ensuring that they are supported through their loved ones illness and enabling them more quality time together.
Hospice professionals are the pioneers and specialists in home-based comfort care. With hospice care, the wishes of the patient and family are paramount. Services include expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support. The majority of hospice patients are cared for at home but care is also provided in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult homes, hospitals and hospice in-patient facilities.
Hospice is a Medicare benefit, incurring no cost to the patient and millions of dollars in savings to the Medicare system each year. Medicaid, most private insurers, and HMO's also have a hospice benefit so cost of care should never be a barrier. Utilizing hospice services can also reduce hospitalizations and trips to the ER, contributing to savings and improved quality of life for patients who wish to remain at home - surrounded by family and familiar surroundings, sights and sounds.
Hospice programs across the nation support earlier family discussions of care options once a person receives a serious diagnosis. These discussions should then be continued with the physician, rather than waiting for the physician to ask how you want to be treated should cure options be exhausted. One of the best ways to make sure you and your loved ones benefit fully from hospice is to talk about it before you need it.
Another unique and valuable service of hospice providers is the fact that the family continues to be supported after losing their loved one. Hospice bereavement counselors are available for up to 13 months after death to provide individual and group counseling along with other services, as well as providing remembrance and memorial programs. Counselors provide helpful support that reminds you that hospice services are still with you and your family, and that someone cares.
"Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community." - Anthony J. D'Angelo
If you or someone you love is struggling to cope with a serious illness, call your local hospice provider. In Niagara County, call Niagara Hospice at 439-4417. More information can also be found at www.NiagaraHospice.org.