Death is usually an uncomfortable topic to think about, let alone plan. Fortunately there are services that can help you receive the most comfortable care possible personalized to your wishes. If you were to find out you only had six months to live, would you prefer taking aggressive drugs hoping for a small chance to live? It may unfortunately be accepted those last few days would be drawn out in the hospital undergoing even more intensive treatments. I know, it’s not necessary to go too far into that scenario. Another option many older folks have chosen is hospice. Unlike a common misconception, hospice is not necessarily a place, but rather a form of care. As laid out by Chang’s article “Development of Hospice and Palliative Care in the United States”, hospice is probably the most sensitive approach, allowing many patients to be taken care of at home, as comfortably as possible3.
Hospitals focus on curative care, meaning fighting against the cause of sickness in order to come closer toward a cure or remission. The only problem with this approach is that some people may not have a probable cure for their illness. Hospices on the other hand, focus on reducing pain during the inevitable final stage of life1. This is called palliative care, when lessening the pain and preserving independence are the redirected goals toward enjoying your last experiences. This is an alternative to physician care, initially most popular among cancer patients, but now expanding across all different conditions2. As hospice care grows popularity and availability, it is becoming better known for its holistic approach. There are many services available including medical treatment, home health aide visits, spiritual and nutrition counseling, and bereavement support for the family. It not only focuses on the body, but the mind and spirit as well3.
Unfortunately hospice has a negative connotation for those who are less familiar to the alternative option.The American Hospice website addresses some of these viewpoints. Some people think that hospice is only for the individuals themselves who are dying2. In fact, it is an inclusive healing practice for the loved one’s family. Not only is illness more bearable to manage in the company of friends and family, but friends and family supporting one another as well. There are special grievance support services as part of the care plan 2. Some people may get the impression that hospice is expensive. Actually since this form of care was mainly supported by volunteers in the beginning, many have maintained their non-profit systems. In fact, almost two thirds of hospices are non-profit 2. Additionally, Medicare plans can cover 95% of your fees, and many hospices have been known to decline the 5% copayment 3. Perhaps the philosophy and morale of this service may be a contributing factor to recipient satisfaction.
Now I am keeping in mind that many of you are still healthy, active, and not so concerned about death at the moment. In fact there will be a few readers who are healthier now in their older years than they have been most of there life! The importance here is considering ahead of time what kind of care you wish to receive should you not be able to make the decision later. With the misconceptions pertaining to hospice, it is possible your family is unaware of this option and It is a never too early to start this dialogue with your family. You would not only be contributing your own wishes, but you can find other family member’s preferences for themselves. I really recommend that you explore the citations I have included.
1 Connor, S. (2009). Development of Hospice and Palliative Care in the United States. In H. Cox (Ed.), Annual Editions: Aging (pp. 86-90). Indiana State University: McGraw Hill.
2 Naierman, N. (2001). Debunking the Myths of Hospice. Retrieved from http://www.americanhospice.org/articles-mainmenu-8/about-hospice-mainmenu-7/36-debunking-the-myths-of-hospice
3 Naierman, N. (2001). The medicare hospice benefit: A good fit with managed care. Retrieved from http://www.americanhospice.org/articles-mainmenu-8/about-hospice-mainmenu-7/42-the-medicare-hospice-benefit-a-good-fit-with-managed-care