National Hospice and Palliative Care Month designated to ensure quality end-of-life care
Editorial by Niagara Hospice
November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. Hospices across the country are reaching out to raise awareness about the highest quality care for all people coping with life-limiting illness.
Niagara Hospice Director of Marketing and Public Relations Patricia Degan said, "It's unfortunate that too many families are denied the benefit of hospice care, or wait too long to accept the many supports the hospice team provides. Patients who receive hospice only in their final days, or even hours of life, leave families wishing they had known about hospice care sooner."
Degan stated many patients die without ever being offered the tangible end-of-life support hospice care provides. They may, instead, struggle with untreated pain and with the side effects of by-now-futile curative medical treatments. They suffer all this, in addition to watching their families struggle to cope with the escalating demands of care.
Hospice programs provide pain management, symptom control, psychosocial support and spiritual care to patients and their families when a cure is not possible. Hospice care combines the highest level of quality medical care with the emotional and spiritual support families need most when facing the end of life. Through this specialized quality care, many patients and their families experience more meaningful moments together. Hospice helps them focus on living despite a terminal diagnoses.
Hospice is a Medicare benefit, incurring no cost to the patient and millions of dollars in savings to the Medicare system each year. Medicaid, most private insurers and HMOs also have a hospice benefit, so cost of care should never be a barrier. Utilizing hospice services can also reduce hospitalizations and trips to the ER, contributing to savings and improved quality of life for patients who wish to remain at home - surrounded by family and familiar surroundings, sights and sounds.
"Hospice providers understand that the word conjures up fear; however, choosing hospice does not mean giving up. It does not mean losing hope, or that death will come faster. In fact, studies have shown that people with a terminal illness who choose hospice care often live longer than those who do not choose hospice," said Joann Stoll, RN, CHPN, vice president of hospice services.
In addition to celebrating National Hospice and Palliative Care Month all November long, this past Veterans Day, Niagara Hospice staff and volunteers celebrated veterans with hand-delivered Veterans Day cards and patriotic-themed red carnations. The cards were crafted and donated by Mary McIntyre's seventh-grade students at Saints Peter and Paul School and were delivered with the carnations by Niagara Hospice volunteers who also are veterans.
Niagara Hospice has established a partnership with the Veterans Administration in Buffalo to ensure quality end-of-life care is available to all Niagara County veterans. Goals of the partnership include educating veterans and the community about the hospice benefit that every veteran is entitled to; customizing hospice care plans specific to the special needs of veterans; and recruiting community veterans to serve as hospice volunteers who are paired with Niagara Hospice patients who are also veterans.
More information about hospice is available at www.NiagaraHospice.org or by calling Niagara Hospice at 716-439-4417. Stories showing the many ways hospice makes more special moments possible can be found at www.momentsoflife.org.
Niagara Hospice has provided end-of-life comfort, care and support since 1988 to more than 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 www.NiagaraHospice.org or call 716-HOSPICE.