TWO WORDS strike fear and dread in our hearts. Cancer is number two. While number one is associated with it, it is no longer exclusive to it. Any number of conditions can lead to a call for it; the word is hospice. Whispers of a patient in the care of hospice paint mental pictures of resignation and the end. It is, however, a beginning when care comes home.
Edie Rimas, the Tennessee area executive of clinical operations of Compassus, said, “Most studies show that patients that go under hospice care actually live an average of 60 days longer than patients who face the end of life without hospice. The reason is that the focus turns to comfort and enables better management of symptoms through medications. They feel better, get out, do more, and spend time with their family. The biggest misconception is that they’re giving up, because it’s so far from giving up.”
We tend to think of hospice as giving up control when, instead, it creates an opportunity to choose what’s most important to the patient. Compassus does everything possible to help achieve these goals, so it’s putting more living into the last days.
Maximizing the benefits of end-oflife care starts while we’re still in good health. Considering how we want to be cared for should we find ourselves unable to self-advocate is not just for us; it’s a priceless gift to family members. One tool is Five Wishes, a form available online at fivewishes.org that makes your spiritual, personal, medical, and legal wishes known in one document through a series of easy-to-understand questions. Being sure you have a Medical Power of Attorney and Will before facing our last days brings peace of mind to you and your loved ones.
Prior to hospice, some conditions qualify for palliative care simultaneously with home health care. According to Compassus, palliative care focuses on relieving the pain, symptoms, and stress of a serious illness and is appropriate at any age and stage of the sickness that could lead to the end of life within 18-24 months of the illness’ current course. It doesn’t prohibit seeking curative or restorative treatment for the illness. This program offers one more tool for extending days and quality of life when pursued early enough.
Finally, palliative and hospice care put arms around both the patient and the family. The peace, support, and warmth described by recipients of such care come back in ‘thank you’, care, and conversations blessing, gift, help, hope, and comfort.
Knowledge of palliative and hospice care is a quilt of blessings we can stitch in wellness and cover ourselves with when colder days near. GN