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Hospice provides a better way to live

Thu, Aug 20th 2015 01:00 pm

Niagara Hospice will kick off their 2015-2016 Speakers Bureau season with a call to service groups, community organizations and faith groups to stop thinking of hospice care as "the end" and start thinking of it as a beginning. Volunteers and staff are available to provide a program to help educate the community about the many benefits of hospice care and why Americans should consider hospice sooner for better quality of life.

Niagara Hospice Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Patricia Degan. Said: "I recently read an article where a hospice professional was quoted as saying that in Europe, death is imminent; in Canada, death is inevitable; in the United States, it is optional. She explained that the American way of thinking about death is one of denial and making war on disease, rather than on pain relief, healing, dignity and peace for individuals in passage."

Degan says Speakers Bureau presentations focus on what hospice really is, dispelling many myths of hospice care, and why choosing hospice does not hasten death and may in fact provide families more time with their loved ones. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization notes that terminal patients live from 20 days to more than 2 months longer in hospice, according to several studies from 2004 through 2010.

Hospice care is a fully-covered Medicare and Medicaid benefit that also saves on Medicare spending. A 2013 study by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City found Medicare savings ranging from $2,560 to $6,430 per patient, depending on their length of enrollment period. Most private insurers also include a hospice benefit.

Niagara Hospice Speakers Bureau presentation attendees may hear about the Niagara Hospice patient who was given the chance to go bow hunting one last time; or of the woman whose wish to ride a horse once more was granted; or about the patient who was able to go fishing with his Hospice volunteer - all precious moments made possible by staff and volunteers who consider it a privilege to be able to provide exceptional hospice care to patients and their families.

Choosing hospice care is not giving up hope, but getting help. As Rev. Mark E. Auernhamer, M. Div. and Niagara Hospice Spiritual Care Counselor said, "Too many people are merely existing and not really living. They are wasting precious time and energy without a sense of the big picture; without a meaningful purpose; without acknowledging that our days on earth are finite; and the clock is ticking." Auernhamer continued, saying, "Our goal for every hospice patient is not just to live, but to live better. Dying is part of life. Whether we die is not a choice. When we die can be related to choices we've made. How we die and being prepared to die is definitely our choice."

Among the many benefits of choosing hospice are more care, comfort and visits from hospice professionals that improve quality of life; reduced emergency room visits and hospitalizations; and caregiver support for families to help ease the stress that dealing with a serious illness often presents.

Niagara Hospice also has a palliative care program that provides support to individuals with a serious, chronic illness. The Pathways program provides case management support to these individuals. Degan said the program is not for hospice patients but for individuals who live in Niagara County and are dealing with a serious illness and wish to remain at home and independent as possible. Supports from Pathways help keep individuals comfortable and reduce the need for emergency room visits and hospitalizations. They do not have to have a terminal diagnosis and may be receiving aggressive, curative treatments while in the Pathways program.

Niagara Hospice Speakers Bureau programs are offered throughout Niagara County to allow more people an opportunity to learn and ask questions about how they want to live when faced with serious illness. "We invite organizations, businesses, service groups and faith communities to be part of a joint effort to make sure people know end-of-life and palliative care options available to them and their loved ones," said Degan. To schedule a Niagara Hospice or Pathways Speakers Bureau program visit: http://www.niagarahospice.org/request-for-speaker-form or leave a message at (716) 280-0742

Niagara Hospice has provided end-of-life comfort, care and support since 1988 to over 25,000 Niagara County individuals and families faced with terminal illness. No one is ever denied hospice care due to inability to pay. For more information, visit NiagaraHospice.org or call 716-HOSPICE.

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