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Start the most difficult conversation American isn’t having- the conversation about our end of life preferences

Hospices Are Among America’s Most Important Care Providers

BY EDO BANACH, JD | President and CEO, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

Within the hospice community, we have a shared vision of bringing the best that humankind can offer to all those individuals facing serious, advanced and life-limiting illness.

Choosing to elect hospice care is an important decision that can greatly benefit patients with life-limiting illness by improving quality of life and providing support to a patient’s family during a difficult time. For people living with a wide range of diagnoses including cancer, heart disease, dementias, lung disease, kidney disease and other medical conditions, hospice is an opportunity to spend one’s last days in comfort and dignity.

Hospice is not a place, but rather a special kind of coordinated care that employs a multi-disciplinary care team to attend to a person’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs at the end of life.

Patients and families should not hesitate about discussing their end of life wishes and options for care with medical providers.

For the more than 4,000 hospices that care for more than 1.6 million patients every year, hospice is a sacred calling. Hospice professionals use the special skills and expertise to support patients and family caregivers during one of the most challenging experiences we share as human beings.

A dedicated team of doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, aides, spiritual caregivers, therapists and volunteers work together in a team to address the patient’s and family’s identified needs. In addition, hospices help provide medications, supplies, equipment, hospital services and additional helpers in the home, as appropriate.

Edo Banach, President and CEO, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

The nurses and physicians who serve hospice patients are experts in their fields and are trained to use the latest medications and devices to help patients with pain and symptom relief. Additionally, physical and occupational therapists are available to assist patients to become as mobile and self-sufficient as possible and are often joined by specialists schooled in music therapy, art therapy, diet counseling and other therapies.

Hospice believes that emotional and spiritual pain are just as real and in need of attention as physical pain, so it addresses these as well. Counselors, including spiritual caregivers, are available to ensure one’s spiritual needs are taken care of.

Patients and families should not hesitate about discussing their end of life wishes and options for care with medical providers. One of the best ways to choose a hospice is to ask questions. A local hospice provider should be more than willing to help you understand their services and how they might be appropriate for your specific situation.

To learn more about hospice and palliative care, I encourage you to visit NHPCO’s website. Additionally, NHPCO offers a worksheet on Choosing a Quality Hospice (PDF) and an online Find a Provider Tool to help people get the information they need when facing serious and life-limiting illness.

The recent episode of CNBC’s American Greed shares the story of a hospice organization that failed to live up to the trust given as a Medicare certified provider. This disturbing story does not reflect the standards of excellent and commitment to quality that can be found throughout our nation’s community of hospice providers.

As the President and CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, I am proud to represent a provider community that is tasked with such an important responsibility and commend the vast majority of hospice providers in the U.S. who not only meet but exceed the high standards of care that hospice patients and their families expect and deserve.

– Feature image courtesy Creative Commons/ Pixabay