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Choosing Hospice – When and Why?

A Conversation with Sharon Beattie, Director of Hospice Operations

As our population continues live longer, there is an increasing need for various levels of health care. Today 60 is the new 40 and and, 80 is the new 60. Yet, there comes a time when more assistance is needed and more medical attention required.

A study published in February 2013 by the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that too few American’s are entering life’s final phase without the high-quality of hospice care that is available. “That’s probably because there is confusion about what hospice care really is” comments Sharon Beattie, Director of VNA’s Hospice Operations. Many times people envision hospice as a place – either in the back ward of a hospital or in a dark room of a nursing home. These misconceptions couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The truth about hospice is that hospice is the end of life experience of maintaining the dignity of life while attending to the needs and wishes of the patient, in the comfort of their home or place of residence. “Hospice focuses on comfort and providing patients and their families an opportunity to value the end of life in a personal way” she continues.

Too many people wait until a loved one is gravely ill before seeking some type of respite care. By then it’s really too late. The study also indicated that hospice tends to be used as an “add-on” service rather than an integral part of health care options, as evidenced by the fact that 28.4 percent of hospice care was for three days or less.

While hospice care focuses on quality at the end-of-life, it’s important to note that people can stay on hospice services for years with terminal illness or end-stage conditions. For VNA California, that means a team approach with the patient and family to determine the Plan of Care. A VNA team can include a nurse, home health aide, social worker, physician and volunteer. Each are critical to the comfort and care of the patient. From pain and medication management to running errands and holding a hand, the VNA teams assists in maintaining quality and comfort.

It’s important to be an advocate for yourself and your loved ones. There is no one reason and set time when hospice care is used. Most important is the prognosis of your loved one’s health or current state and what is truly important to them. In many cases, having a choice and staying at home in familiar surroundings is paramount.