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HOSPICE: A DIFFICULT CHOICE?

by Tricia Degan
Thu, Dec 16th 2010 01:25 pm
By Patricia Degan, Director of Public Relations
Niagara Hospice
4675 Sunset Drive
Lockport, NY 14094

Hospice: I know what you're thinking but don't let the mere mention of a word come between you and providing comfort, compassion and dignity for someone you love. This time of year is full of the hustle and bustle the holidays bring to our often already busy lives. Add to the mix caring for a loved one and your stress levels may more than double. Maybe your loved one could benefit from hospice services - but you'll wait until after the holidays to make that call. In the meantime, their pain or other symptoms may become worse, their safety at risk, and you become overstressed with the increased demands put on you.

Unfortunately, too many people are afraid of the word "hospice" - equating it with near immediate death. Did you know the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 2007 reported that people with end-of-life illnesses who choose hospice care live longer than patients who do not choose hospice?

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization reports that an estimated 41.6 percent of all people who died in the U.S. last year were under the care of a hospice program. At 68.8 percent, the majority of hospice care was provided in the home, whether the patient's home was a private residence, nursing home, or residential facility.

You may be surprised to learn that you may know someone who is hospice appropriate. Do you know someone who:
• has unintentionally lost weight in the last six months?
• is often short of breath?
• has fallen three or more times over the past six months?
• needs help bathing, dressing, toileting, getting out of bed or eating?
• has open wounds that won't heal or a history of infections?
• has started taking medications to lessen pain?
• has a caregiver in need of help?

If you can answer "Yes" to three or more of these questions, this person may benefit from the many services hospice care provides. Don't be afraid to make that call. Anyone can call Hospice to make a referral or to simply get more information.

We receive many cards and letters from thankful family members. Here is what one recently wrote: "Before I called Hospice I thought I could do it all myself - I was in error. Boy, was I wrong. Hospice services and staff have been absolutely wonderful and very, very helpful." If you know someone who may qualify for hospice services, please don't wait to make the call - let us help.

Hospice Speakers Bureau as a resource
The ideal time to learn about all that Hospice can offer is before a person receives a potentially terminal diagnosis. Volunteers and staff from the Niagara Hospice Speakers Bureau are available to speak to groups and organizations about hospice services and quality end-of-life care. Far too often, families are faced with a health care crisis before they explore their options, and making decisions at this time can be very difficult. The Niagara Hospice Speakers Bureau is an excellent resource that can help individuals and families make informed decisions now or in the future, if necessary.

Presentation topics include: how hospice provides a total approach to end-of-life care; when hospice care is appropriate; how hospice is paid for; support services available for caregivers; ancillary services for the patient such as massage therapy, music, volunteer and pet visits; services available at Niagara Hospice House; and the We Honor Veterans program in collaboration with the Veteran's Administration (VA). Veteran groups, churches, service groups, schools, and other organizations are encouraged to call Niagara Hospice at 439-4417 to book a speaker, or for more information.

Since serving its first patient in 1988, Niagara Hospice has served over 15,000 individuals as well as their immediate and extended families. Hospice is specialized care for the terminally ill that includes physical, emotional, spiritual and bereavement care for families. Niagara Hospice also provides outreach grief and loss services to the community. For more information, visit www.NiagaraHospice.org, call (716) 439-4417 or become a fan on Facebook.

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